ROUND TOWN BROWN
My first reaction when I heard that Hubie Brown had been hired as Sidney Lowes successor was the same as many in NBA-land: What in the name of Bernard King is going on here? A 69-year-old television analyst who hasnt coached in 16 years to lead a Memphis Grizzlies squad that averages 24 years of age and includes exactly five player who have seen action in the playoffs? Put it this way: players shorts were a lot shorter the last time Hubie Brown held a clipboard. Salaries were lighter. You could find a game on TV once or twice a week. Heck, there were only 23 teams when the New York Knicks dismissed Brown 16 games into the 1986-87 season.
You know what? Hubie Brown is the perfect pick for this team. The 2002-03 Grizzlies are a team that need teaching more than they need coaching. Jerry West has called Brown a wise man, a coach with a mind for the game and how it should be played, particularly on the defensive end. He built a reputation during his first coaching life as a man who would not tolerate slackers, a coach who asked his players, first and foremost, to be on time and play all out. Browns approach may not ingratiate him with the likes of Jason Williams, Pau Gasol, and Stromile Swift. But so what? Sidney Lowe spent his time in Memphis trying to be a coach and friend to his players and look where it got him. Hubie Brown wont give a bear claw what these kids think of him, as long as they play basketball the way he feels it should be played. And remember, Brown was the first NBA coach in New York for a burgeoning superstar named Patrick Ewing. If it worked for Ewing, it should work for Drew Gooden.
On a personal level, Im thrilled Brown is coaching again because it means I dont have to listen to him as a game analyst. He may, as West claims, know the game A to Z, but his recitations on the blocked-shot average of a teams backup center, or the assist-to-turnover ratio of an Eastern Conference point guard when playing opponents from the Pacific Division grew tiresome. His obvious love and enthusiasm for professional basketball was often drowned in the crutch of statistics he carried with him before the camera. Perhaps a healthy dose of Xs and Os will wake up a young Memphis team in need of some Basketball 101.
As for the naysaysers, who would you have take Lowes kicked-clawed-and-scratched seat? This is a time when all the Jerry West fans need to have faith in their wizard. Once the NBA season begins, the best coaches -- we must presume -- already have jobs. Same goes for the top names at the college level. West had a difficult task here, made an unconventional choice, and still managed to find someone with the reputation for teaching and discipline that his Grizzlies so sorely need. Say what you will about the other talking hoop-heads out there -- Danny Ainge, John Thompson, Mike Fratello -- Hubie Brown comes closest to the prototype for a developing teams instructor/guardian. So what if hes 69 and looks 10 years older?
Stromile Swift was 7 years old the last time his new coach was at the helm of an NBA franchise. Pau Gasol was 6 and Drew Gooden was 5. These three players, combined, have four years of NCAA experience. All three are immensely talented but have yet to taste winning on the professional level. They need a teacher, a father-figure (grandfather figure?) as their careers blossom. When they tipped off against Minnesota last Friday night in The Pyramid, they had their man.