Maybe Larry Brown went for the money. I don't know.
In a league where coaching is supposedly a secondary concern - I mean, you know about Pat Riley's hair and his clothes, but can you name a single play he ever called? _ the low-rent San Antonio Spurs have chosen to break the bank for a coach.
Of course, Brown is not just any coach. He wins at all levels. We know that, because he's been at all levels. Constantly. He's a rambling guy. When they say Larry Brown is a man on the move, they mean he's a man on the move.
Right now, Brown is the hottest commodity in the coaching world. Only last April he took a so-so Kansas team and made of it an NCAA champion. We're not talking fluke here, not when you consider it was Brown's third trip to the Final Four in seven years as a college coach, putting him solidly in league with the big boys like Dean and Bob.
Unlike Dean and Bob, however, Larry has become a joke.
It shouldn't be this way. I know Larry Brown. He's a good, earnest, sincere, warm, friendly, puppy dog of a guy. As a coach, he stands for most of the right things, including an abiding concern for his players. And, he wins. In the ABA, NBA, NCAA. You name the initials, and Larry Brown can coach there. Still, he's a joke. And it's his fault.
Brown, you see, has this flaw in his personality. It's this: The man is forever in search of happiness, or a greater happiness, or a final, for-sure, I-know-this-is-it-for-me happiness. All such people are, of course, miserable.
Only Brown is miserable on a national stage. We watch him. We used to feel sorry for him. Now we find it hard to suppress a giggle.
Maybe it really is just the money - five years, $700,000 a year, making him the highest paid coach in the NBA. And that's just for starters. When they figure his income at Kansas, which amounts to about $500,000 a year, they throw in shoe contracts and camps. Well, even pro coaches wear shoes and, presumably, wear them to camps. It really is a lot of money. And yet, although it had to have been a factor in his decision, I'm pretty sure the money was not the determining factor.
I wish I could tell you what was.
A few days ago, in the heat of negotiation, Brown said that part of the NBA's allure was that the pro game afforded a real opportunity for a coach to teach. Most of us blinked, at least those who didn't recognize rationalization in full flower.
Brown coached at Kansas and coached well. Now, Danny Manning, the Jayhawks' centerpiece, is leaving Kansas, also for the NBA. Many thought it was time for Brown to move on. In the hours after the NCAA title game, he was in Los Angeles, negotiating with a UCLA, a school he had already abandoned once. Finally, he told the UCLA people he would take their job, only to refuse it in the end. He looked bad even in staying at Kansas, however briefly that turned out to be.
In leaving for the NBA, a league he has twice deserted,Brown may be able to sell himself that this is somehow different than choosing one college over another, a distinction that probably escape the rest of us.
And yet, it is his life, and it's his decision to make certain there are no roads not taken. If anyone else were to make this move, we would all nod our heads, saying to ourselves that it makes perfect sense. When Brown does it, we shake our heads, and wonder what's got into his.