If there's one thing Larry Brown learned during his 26-year NBA coaching career, it's the importance of having a good relationship with the guy who signs the checks.
"Everywhere I've ever been, if the head coach and the owner have a good relationship and are honest with each other and they know exactly what their goals [and values] are, you're going to be successful," Brown said in a phone interview earlier this week.
So what about Mike Woodson's relationship with New York Knicks owner James Dolan?
Brown, who said he speaks to Woodson nearly every day, said he believes the Knicks' coach and owner have a "great" relationship.
"I think Mike and Mr. Dolan have that kind of relationship," said Brown, a former Knicks coach himself. "And I think that's a good thing."
Forecasting Dolan's opinion of his employees is always a dicey proposition. The owner rarely -- and I mean rarely -- speaks to reporters who cover the Knicks. But recent events suggest Dolan has Woodson's back.
The owner gave Woodson a vote of confidence in late November, when the Knicks were 3-8. A month later, in an effort to quiet the daily speculation over Woodson's job status, Dolan told players there would be no trades or coaching changes.
"I think if Jim knows that you're trying hard and you're working hard and you're doing everything you can to see that the team is successful, he'll stick by you," said Brown, who currently serves as head coach at Southern Methodist University. "That's what Mike's expressed to me and that's the feeling I got."
Brown went through a messy one-year tenure in New York -- complete with a contentious divorce from the organization -- but says he has no ill will toward Dolan.
"Everybody criticizes Jim Dolan. Jim Dolan was fair with me," said Brown, who added that he regrets not having a direct line of communication with Dolan. "I think he wants to win, he wants to give the coaches the resources to win. He's demanding but he should be -- it's the New York Knicks."
Brown signed a five-year, $50 million deal with the Knicks in 2005. But he was let go after one forgettable 23-win season. The Knicks paid him an $18.5 settlement after cutting him loose.
Some fans and media believe Woodson should suffer the same fate. Woodson led the Knicks to 54 wins last season, but his team has performed well below expectations this season.
Brown, perhaps striking an optimistic tone because he and Woodson are close friends, says his ex-assistant can turn things around -- if key players can stay healthy.
"There are a lot of winnable games in the East. You take Indiana, and you take Miami [away] and everybody's floundering," says Brown, who shared the bench with Woodson in Philadelphia and Detroit. "I think the [Knicks] can do well, I don't doubt them at all. Mike feels strongly about that. You don't win 54 games last year and forget everything."
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