Luke Waltons Forehead presented by the Sports Dude.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 at 10:56 AM

A thank you note to Larry Brown.

I would like to take a minute to say thanks to Larry Brown. I know it may be an unpopular thing to do in these parts, but for me it feels like the right thing to do. I know people were fed up with what seemed like constant flirtation with other places, other jobs, when he had a great thing here. I know many people were fed up with the uncertainty of the “will he, won’t he” be healthy enough to coach all of next year or maybe just some. Maybe it was his health, maybe it wasn’t, the real answer won’t come until he not only takes the Knicks job, but if he makes it through an entire season if he does. Maybe he was just using the health issue as an excuse, we all know coaching the Knicks was his supposed “dream job”. I mean, maybe he really is nearing the end of his coaching days and maybe, just maybe, he wanted that one last shot at fulfilling his childhood dream of coaching the Knicks. Maybe he just made some of his health issues a little bit more than they really were, maybe he used it just as leverage to get him free, get him out the door, and fulfill that boyhood dream before it is too late. Maybe, just maybe, that is all it is, all it ever was, and quite frankly can you blame him? Don’t we all have that one dream, that one wish that we hold on to in hopes of someday seeing it through? Maybe for him he saw this as his last shot and he seized it. So maybe, just maybe, we are all a little jealous because he has the opportunity to actually do it, while we still just hope for the “someday”.

Next, don’t forget what he brought to this team in the short time he was here, what he transformed this team into. Yes, the Rasheed Wallace deal was a huge piece last year, but ‘Sheed or no ‘Sheed, we don’t get to the Finals without LB. Furthermore, we don’t win the Championship without LB. Lastly, we don’t go all the way to Game #7, on the road no less, and get within minutes of pulling of the most difficult back to back championship in all of sports history without LB. We don’t have Chauncey Billups being just about as good of a point guard as there is in the league without LB. Rip would have never rounded into a more complete player, getting assists as well as his points. Big Ben would still be stuck in Rick Carlisle mode, afraid to shoot and force the Pistons to be a four on five offensive unit. (Yes, I know his offensive skills are still sub par, but you know what? At least he is more aggressive now than he used to be, plus he can hit that jumper now when other teams leave him open.) Tayshaun Prince and his play the last two years can also be attributed to the things LB has taught him again making me say, like Darko or not, Carmelo who? This team won a title because he got them to “play the right way”; he helped them get over the hump, gave us two great years of basketball and should give us a couple years more of exciting basketball because of what he brought to the table. So please, angry with him or not, don’t forget that the Pistons are the team they are today, and should remain an elite team in the Eastern Conference for a few years now, because of the two years that were spent with LB on the bench.

Yes, there were also frustrations with LB, but that comes with the man, the myth and, of course, the legend. When he was signed to a five year contract two seasons ago I remember even thinking then that there was no way he would make all five. I figured we would get three good years out of him tops and that was it. Has my attitude changed now? No it hasn’t but unfortunately we only got two years. Yes there was the circus season this year, the brawl, the Knicks, the Cavs, the surgeries and the uncertainty. There was his reluctance to maybe play Darko a little more, his stubbornness when it came to Delfino, whom I think we could have really used in the Finals against the Spurs. However, on that note, I really think Brown wanted Delfino on the playoff roster and not Darko; I think that decision came from the “higher ups” within the organization, but again who’s to say LB would have even played him? He trusted veterans more than younger kids, but I’ll be damned if those younger kids still probably didn’t learn a thing or two from LB. Yes, he may have frustrated us all with his lack of playing time for the younger guys, but I bet you each of them is better off having played with him than not at all. He may have had the wandering eye from time to time, but he did get us a title in year #1 and he did bring us to within five minutes of a repeat this year. For all the baggage, for all the frustration, that is what LB is, and I for one am gladder to have had him for two seasons than none at all.

So, in closing, I would like to once again say thanks LB, not that it really matters coming from me. Yes there will be people saying that it is a downgrade, but as I said in a previous post, that is a silly statement in itself. LB is the greatest coach in the game today, no matter what coach you bring in (in this case Flip Saunders) you are going to have a down grade. But as a Piston fan, as a basketball lover, I am still glad we had the two years we had with him at all. For him it was just time to move on, as it always is with him. Like I said earlier, maybe it simply was a return to that young boy chasing a dream, chasing a dream job. He is a man of great pride; I think all of us can see that. He desperately wanted a title and he got it quicker than any of us expected, I bet himself included, in his first season. He had serious health issues this year, again anyone who denies that is fooling themselves. Maybe it was nothing more than chasing that one last dream while he was still healthy enough to do so. One dream down, winning the NBA Title, one dream left while he was still healthy enough to do so, coaching the Knicks. Maybe he used the health as leverage, helping the Pistons push him out the door so he could achieve that one last dream. So I say thanks Larry, thanks for helping bring the Pistons back to the pinnacle of basketball, thanks for the memories, now go get that dream of yours while you still can. I admit I for one am jealous, jealous such that I still am chasing my dream while you seem to be making yours come true. I for one know that, if you return to the Palace as coach of the Knicks, I will gladly stand and give you a nice ovation, one that you truly deserve. But, after tip off, know that I will be rooting for the Pistons to blow the Knicks out of the Palace. Hey, I may say thanks now, but after tip off you are just another coach on another team that the Pistons need to beat in the East. That part isn’t a dream, that part is just the reality of the situation.

The Sports Dude.

Blogger Leelanau Sports Guy said...

GREAT POST! I for one, know I have vastly under-appreciated LB after reading that. He really molded this team into the champions they became.

Great writing as always!  

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Anonymous Evan said...

You know, I heard a lot of nasty initial reaction to Larry's departure as the story was unfolding in the past few weeks.

But since then, it became clear that there are a few people out there -- maybe more than I originally thought -- who are OK with it and who realize they should just be happy for what he gave the city and the team's fans.

Anyhow -- good post. I totally agree.  

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