GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Forget the health concerns, the 59
losses or the feud with Stephon Marbury: Larry Brown is coming back
That's what Brown and team president Isiah Thomas said Thursday,
one day after the New York Knicks completed one of the worst
seasons in their history.
As for the rest of the team's high-priced but underachieving
roster, changes figure to be coming.
"I am loyal to winning and I am not loyal to any singular
individual," Thomas said at the Knicks' practice facility. "I'm
going to do what I need to do to make our team better."
He'll have plenty of it after the Knicks went 23-59 in Brown's
first season, tying the franchise record for losses. And though the
players want the team kept intact so they can make up for it,
Thomas knows that isn't realistic.
"When you won 23 games, I think we'll make some changes," he
said. "Coach and I haven't sat down and fully decided what changes
we'll make, but we'll probably make some changes.
"We have a group that from everything that I've heard today
like each other, want to stay together and want to play together
and believe that they can get it done. However, I don't know if
that will be the case."
Thomas made a number of moves before and during this season, and
almost none of them worked. Brown was hired to much fanfare but had
one of the worst seasons of his Hall of Fame career; center Eddy Curry didn't show much progress after Thomas acquired him from
Chicago during training camp -- using the No. 1 pick that will be a
lottery selection -- and Jalen Rose and Steve Francis failed to make
much impact after being dealt for during the season.
And while no players may be safe, Brown apparently is. Thomas
said he won't fire the coach, and Brown said none of the health
issues that sent him to the hospital twice and forced him to miss
three games at the end of the season would keep him from the bench.
Concerns about Brown's health were part of the reason the
Pistons didn't bring him back after last season. This time, he says
they won't be the cause of his latest departure from a team.
"I wasn't in control of that," he said of the Detroit
situation. "I want to return here. I want to fulfill my contract
and I want to stay involved as long as they'll have me."
Thomas said Brown's job is safe because of his past successes,
but there wasn't much to like about this season. The Knicks won 10
fewer games than last season, and Brown criticized some players
through the media. It was almost as if things were tougher than the
Brooklyn native expected.
"Nobody can train you or make you aware what it's going to be
like to coach in New York," Brown said.
Dealing with Marbury was the toughest part. The coach and point
guard bickered through the media in March, and Marbury has made it
known that playing Brown's way isn't his preference.
Typical of their dysfunctional relationship was Marbury's
session with the media Thursday. He said that "Larry Brown made me
a better man," but then gave a "No comment" when asked if Brown
was the right coach for the team.
Even if Brown and Marbury can work together, there's much more
to address. The Knicks committed an NBA-worst 17.7 turnovers per
game and surrendered an average of 102 points, a combination that
led to plenty of ugly losses.
"For the most part we weren't even in some of the games we
lost," Curry said.
Changes won't be easy. The Knicks have plenty of bad contracts
that make up the league's highest payroll, and they won't be easy
for Thomas to move.
But he will have to come up with something. No matter what the
players say about being about to turn things around, 23-59 says
"To sit here and think that we're going to stand pat is kind of
silly," Brown said.