<
>

Knicks say Brown, Isiah to continue to talk

NEW YORK -- Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas sat together for four hours, their first face-to-face meeting to discuss whether the 64-year-old is healthy enough and interested enough to become coach of the New York Knicks.

The meeting took place Thursday night in eastern Long Island at Brown's summer home, and the sides plan to speak again soon.

"They had very positive conversations and are going to continue to talk," Knicks spokesman Joe Favorito said Friday.

Thomas waited patiently while the saga of Brown's departure from
the Detroit Pistons played out, and Brown is clearly his choice to
take over leadership of a rebuilding franchise that's been mediocre
at best during the past several seasons.

As presently constructed, the Knicks don't fit the typical Brown
mold.

Their point guard, Stephon Marbury, clashed with Brown when they
were together on the U.S. Olympic team, and their two veteran
starting centers from last season -- Nazr Mohammed and Kurt Thomas --
have been traded.

Aside from Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford, both with low career shooting percentages, the Knicks' shooting guards
include gimpy-kneed Allan Houston, who could be waived before
November in a luxury-tax saving move, and the over-the-hill Penny Hardaway, playing out the final season of a long-term contract that
pays him more than $14 million next season.

Tim Thomas, a career underachiever, is New York's best small
forward, while the front line will be manned by work-in-progress
Michael Sweetney and free agent signee-to-be Jerome James, who
brings an underachiever reputation along with him from Seattle.

And then there's defense, another key facet of all Brown's
teams. The Knicks don't play it very well, and they also fail in
the toughness category that Brown's Pistons teams so embodied.

Still, Brown loves challenges as much as he craves attention and
new jobs.

His picture has been plastered across the back pages of the New
York tabloids, and he even was interviewed and photographed at a
boat harbor after returning from a leisurely afternoon with his
family on the waters off Long Island, N.Y.

Photographers followed Brown's wife, Shelly, after she picked up
Thomas from a small airport Thursday evening.

"If I'm speaking to them, I obviously have an interest," Brown
said at a children's basketball clinic he conducted Thursday,
according to several media reports. "But my concern is what is
best for my family and if I can do it mentally."

Brown would be coaching his eighth NBA team if he takes over the
Knicks, but he has expressed reservations in recent days about
possibly nudging New York interim coach Herb Williams out of a job.

"I don't want to string this thing out for Herb or their
organization," Brown said. "But the biggest thing, to be honest
with you, is I've got to get it straight with my family what I'm
going to do."

Brown's relationship with Marbury also will be a significant
factor. Brown prefers his point guards to act as offensive
initiators rather than scorers, but Marbury's style of play was at
odds with Brown's philosophy.

"We've basically been trying to just pass, pass, pass to the
point where we've been overpassing, because we're trying to play
the right way, the way our coach wants to play," Marbury said upon
his arrival in Belgrade last summer after the U.S. team struggled
in tuneup games against Italy and Germany. "But there has to --
there's going to be -- a break-off, where we're just going to have
to take those shots that we normally take and make."

When those comments were relayed to Brown later that day in
lobby bar of the Belgrade Hyatt, the coach was so incensed that he
stormed off to his room before sending assistant coach Gregg
Popovich back downstairs to locate a copy of the story containing
Marbury's quote.

Marbury ended up staying on the team, and Brown stuck with him
as his starting point guard rather than turning that job over to
Dwyane Wade.

Marbury struggled defensively against opposing point guards
Carlos Arroyo and Sarunas Jasikevicius in opening-round losses to
Puerto Rico and Lithuania. But by the time the U.S. team reached
the quarterfinals, Brown had loosened his controls on Marbury to
such a degree that Marbury broke the men's U.S. Olympic scoring
record shared by Spencer Haywood and Charles Barkley by getting 31
points in a victory over Spain that moved the United States into
the semifinals.

"Playing under coach Brown is not easy," Marbury said after
the victory over Spain. "It's tough because he demands so much
from you -- to try to play your game and try to do what he wants,
and have that all combine in one has been a challenge to me. But
it's been a great challenge."

Earlier this summer, Thomas vehemently denied a report that the
Knicks were shopping Marbury in trade talks.

The team president has tried to foster a close relationship with
Marbury, his neighbor in suburban New York, although Thomas did say
at the close of last season that he was angry enough to trade his
own mother.