BROWN IN SURPRISE EXIT AS GRIZZLIES' COACH 

BROWN IN SURPRISE EXIT AS GRIZZLIES' COACH

In an emotion-tinged press conference at the FedEx Forum Friday, neither Jerry West, Memphis Grizzlies president for basketball operations, nor Hubie Brown himself provided any base-line reason for Brown’s unexpected retirement as Grizzlies’ coach, first reported late Thursday night.

The 71-year-old Brown, who took the Grizzlies to their first playoffs last season with a 50-31 record, had issued a statement the previous day referring to “unexpected health related issues” and "a situation" that "was unforeseen and absolutely non-existent at the beginning of the season." He did not elaborate Friday other than to say that before the season began he had taken and passed the same “intensive” physical exam that was administered to players of the Atlanta Hawks.

Both West and Brown paid tribute at the press conference to Memphis fans -- Brown mentioning "the love affair the fans had with my kids" and going on to say that, with a young team especially, “You have to have a fan baseÉa home court where the fans with their spirit can carry them when the going is difficult.”

West, who at times teared up as did Brown, described Brown as "not only a great man but a wonderful coach."

Brown, who took over the Grizzlies’ reins from fired coach Sidney Lowe on November 12, 2002, said the young Memphis team had "reinvented me." He said his "only regret" was that he had dealt with the team at a time in his life when he was less astute and observant than he had been in his 40s and 40's.

Brown had coached 15 seasons in the NBA, leading the New York Knicks to the playoffs twice in five seasons and the Atlanta Hawks to three postseason appearances in five years. Brown also won an American Basketball Association championship in 1975 with the Kentucky Colonels. Before returning to coaching with the Grizzlies, he had been a long-time broadcaster of NBA games with NBC.

A self-described "innovator and risk taker," Brown, whose team was 5-7 so far this season, had a total record with the Grizzlies, over three seasons, of 83-85, and his high point -- alluded to by both himself and West Friday -- was being named NBA Coach of the Year and receiving the award from NBA Commissioner David Stern before Memphis’ first playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs last year.

"You can't be remembered...unless you have a distinct style," Brown maintained at the press conference. "His footprints here will be gigantic ones to fill," said West, who confirmed that assistant coach Lionel Hollins would take over the Grizzlies fort the time being but indicated it was uncertain how long he would continue in that role.

Brown himself indicated he and his family would "step back and evaluate our lifestyle right now" but said he would probably be conducting clinics as he had in the past. West said he and Grizzlies' owner Michael Heisley hoped to continue to have Brown "involved in some way" in the team's operations.

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