As the Charlotte Bobcats begin their fifth season of existence, they have yet to get a taste of the playoffs. Feeling that the talent level is there, executive Michael Jordan has brought in veteran head coach Larry Brown to guide the ‘Cats towards their first playoff berth. Jordan felt that Brown’s wealth of coaching experience would be a significant upgrade over last season’s rookie head coach Sam Vincent, who often clashed with players over strategy and lineups during his only season at the helm.
The Bobcats progressed each year under the veteran leadership of coach Bernie Bickerstaff, winning 18, 26, and 33 games respectively in each of the first three years, but struggled last season as they again won 33 games. The team didn’t respond to a rookie head coach and that led the Bobcats to Brown. With a returning core of Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, and Emeka Okafor, the Bobcats have a roster capable of grabbing one of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. But can Larry Brown’s methodical coaching style get through to this young team or will he end up clashing with the players?
There is no question about Brown’s reputation as a head coach. His mentor, Dean Smith, is one of the greatest coaches ever, and Brown has a coaching resume that dates back to 1972 with the Carolina Cougars. He has coached 10 different teams in the ABA and NBA as well as winning a national championship in 1988 at Kansas. In addition, he won a NBA championship in 2004 while coaching the Detroit Pistons. But he has always been known as a nomad and has never stayed anywhere longer than six seasons, which means his stay in Charlotte may not last more than a few years. But the bottom line is that he has experienced success everywhere he has been.
While coaching the Sixers, his rocky relationship with Allen Iverson was well-publicized but in the end, Iverson was quoted as saying that Brown was without a doubt “the best coach in the world.” Brown has also earned a reputation for his aversion towards putting young players on the court. First in Detroit, with No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic, and most notably during the 2004 Athens Olympics where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sat on the pine as USA took home a disappointing bronze.
The Bobcats roster is loaded with lottery picks, but also has a few players that have been around long enough to help this team mature. Wallace and Richardson are both entering their eighth season and Brown is looking for them to provide veteran leadership this year. Brown has been known to build strong relationships with his point guards and the ‘Cats have two very coachable point guards in Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin. This roster may look young on paper, but even the young kids on the roster come from successful college programs and strong coaching.
I don’t see any problem with Larry Brown being able to get through to the Bobcats. They are young, athletic, and are eager to get to the next level. It is hard to argue with the level of success that Brown has had as a coach, and if you asked me, I wouldn’t bet against a coach that has reached the playoffs in 25 of 26 seasons while accumulating over 1,800 NBA wins. This hire will be an important one for the Michael Jordan era in Charlotte, but I believe that Brown will be able to get through to this team and help them reach the playoffs this year.