The Larry Brown impact:
It is difficult to discuss the impact Head Coach Larry Brown has had on the Charlotte Bobcats without some discussion about the kind of team he inherited. The Bobcats had two Head Coaches before Coach Brown arrived in Charlotte, Bernie Bickerstaff and Sam Vincent.
Bernie Bickerstaff was hired as the first Head Coach, and also as the General Manager, for the new Charlotte franchise. The Bobcats became known as an overachieving group of players that steadily increased their wins with Coach Bickerstaff at the helm. I dislike “faulty logic” and will point out what I’m about to say is just that, faulty logic, to evaluate what Coach Bickerstaff accomplished with the Bobcats.
The ‘Cats won only 18 games their first year but increased their wins by eight games their second year and by seven their third year to a total of 33 victories, the last year Bernie coached the team. If those win increases continued over the next three years the team would have had 39, 44, and finally 48 wins this season. I doubt anyone believes that Coach Bickerstaff could have maintained those increases, and there is the fault in the logic. Michael Jordan was brought in as a minority owner and head of player operations for the last year Bernie coached the team. The prevailing belief, and a “best guess”, is that Jordan felt the team had reached a peak with Bickerstaff as the head coach and it was time to make a change.
Bickerstaff remained, for one year, as the ‘Cats GM, but Jordan was now calling the player personnel shots. The first coaching hire for Jordon was a then-assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, Sam Vincent. The team winning total actually decreased by one, to 32 wins, in the only season Vincent coached the Bobcats. It was an arguably better team than Bickerstaff had coached, since the Bobcats aquired a very talented offensive player in Jason Richardson. The team, under Vincent’s leadership, seemed disorganized and frustrated. Even the most “laid-back” player on the team at the time, Emeka Okafor, had issues with Coach Vincent. The Vincent experiment failed after one year.
The next season, 2008-09, Larry Brown was brought in by Jordan to coach the team. Brown had been asked to coach the team the year before, the Sam Vincent year, but turned the offer down and remained a consultant with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brown accepted the second offer to coach the team, and in him the Bobcats hired a Hall of Fame coach to repair the damage left from Vincent.
Coach Brown has many reputations attached with him. Turning around teams is one of those, “gypsy” is another. But one thing that is difficult to argue against concerning Coach Brown is his reputation as one of the best teaching coaches in basketball. Brown demands that his players “play the right way”. He expects players to play hard for 48 minutes, to play defense, and to share the basketball. This is easier-said-than-done with a group of players that readily admitted they’d never been coached before he arrived. Some players did not respond well to Coach Browns’ style and roster changes, another thing for which Brown is renowned, were inevitable. Trades were made and the roster began to take the shape of “Larry Brown” type players – players that played the “right way” in Coach Browns’ vision.
Jason Richardson was traded to the Suns for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw and the roster continued to slowly begin to reflect Coach Browns’ philosophy. The results from the first year after Brown arriving were a franchise high 35 wins. Trades continued (I will not talk about all of them) as Brown worked to retool the roster more to his liking. The results of all these transactions is difficult to argue against, since the Bobcats won 44 games his second year as Head Coach and find themselves in the play offs for the first time in their short history. It appears that Coach Brown’s reputation as a “turn-around” specialist is well-deserved. The players needed his expertise, the fans needed a team they could get behind, and the organization needed the respect teams gain from making the play offs. It is obvious that the decision by now-principle owner Jordan to bring Coach Brown in as the Head Coach was the correct decision. But the other “stigma” attached to Larry Brown now comes into play, that of the basketball “gypsy”.
Conversations coupled with rumors have already started about Coach Brown and his next “destination” as Head Coach. It has been reported that Coach Brown has received permission to leave the team, and the year remaining on his contract, at the end of this season, because his family still lives in Philadelphia and prefers not to move to Charlotte. We will not know if this is true until the season ends, but for now Coach Brown and the players seem focused on their first-round play off series against the Orlando Magic.
I’ll have, I hope, a three part series regarding who our next Head Coach might be if Coach Brown decides to leave after this season. But for now I’d like to thank him and our players for all their hard work this season, and wish them the best in the play offs.