|Dawkins no fan of Larry Brown|
From "Chocolate Thunder" by Darryl Dawkins and Charley Rosen
One of the most entertaining and irrepressible showmen to ever play the game of professional basketball, Darryl Dawkins dunked his way through the NBA for 14 seasons. One of the earliest players in the modern era to understand that pro hoops ought to be entertainment, the man known as "Chocolate Thunder" was the first to shatter a backboard with the power of his slam-dunks.
Dawkins' new book, "Chocolate Thunder: The Uncensored Life and Times of the NBA's Original Showman" (Sport Media Publishing, Inc., 2003), co-authored with Page 2's Charley Rosen, is available now in bookstores everywhere. This excerpt deals with his first season playing for the New Jersey Nets under coach Larry Brown, now with the 76ers, in 1982-83.
Larry Brown was from the Dean Smith school of head coaches, so he never let his assistants do much. Larry's always had the reputation of being a great teacher, and I must admit he did help me develop my left hand (which was the only worthwhile thing he ever taught me). The unfortunate truth was that Larry saved most of his teaching time and most of his favors for his pets. He was constantly excusing Buck (Williams) and Albert (King) from practice. "You two guys worked hard in last night's game," Larry would say, "so you can take off. I'm going to make everybody else sweat their asses off."
Say what? Only two guys worked hard? F--- that!
Larry was also said to be a tremendous motivator, but I never liked his tactics. He thought that he knew the right way of doing everything, from setting a pick to ordering in a restaurant. Whenever anybody did something just a little bit differently, whether the results were good or bad, Larry said we should've done it his way. He was like an old maid just nagging and bitching at us all the time.
We were playing in front of a small crowd one night in Milwaukee and me and Darwin Cook were setting up a pick-and-roll. My defender anticipated that I'd be rolling to the basket, so I made an adjustment and stepped to the foul line instead. I was wide open for a jump shot but Darwin had trouble with his dribble and the ball never got to me. For a moment the crowd was absolutely silent, and that's when Larry jumped up and yelled, "Roll, Darryl! Roll to the basket!" I just stopped playing and turned to face him. "No, no," I said. "I can't play with you screaming and hollering at me the whole goddamn night!" The players on the bench, and even the courtside fans, started laughing. That was one of the rare times when Larry backed down. "You're right, Kiddo," he said. "You're right."
If one of us was getting worn out by our opponent, Larry would talk to us during a break in the action. "Hey, Kiddo. C'mere, Kiddo. You're so much better than that guy, Kiddo, and you let him work you over? C'mon, Kiddo." So we'd go back on the court all fired up and bust the other guy's ass. Afterwards, Larry would come over and talk to us like we were nothing but lazy motherf------ to begin with. "So, Kiddo. You finally did your job, huh?"
Yeah? Well, f--- you, too.
He'd also put us through grueling practices during the season. When the team was in Portland we had a three-and-a-half hour session. But we hated for Larry to give us a day off because the next day we knew he'd work us like runaway slaves. A number of Larry's players did not respect him, and it appeared to me that if you were too up-front about this, you were gone. That's what happened to Mickey Johnson.
Sometimes when the Meadowlands Arena wasn't available, we practiced at a place called APA Trucking in Newark. We came in there one day and the surface of the court was really slick. Mickey Johnson was a skinny, six-foot-ten small forward the Nets had just gotten from the Milwaukee Bucks. He was an okay rebounder and passer, a liability on defense, but Mickey could make a scoreboard flash like a pinball machine. (I called him "The Mad Hatter" because he showed up with a different one every day.) Mickey took one look at that court and started unlacing his sneakers. "I can't practice on that," he announced. "I'm 30 years old and I'm not gonna take the chance of slipping and getting an injury that might end my career."
All the rest of us were out there sliding around and trying to warm up. Larry pointed to us and said to Mickey, "Look, everybody else is practicing."
"Not me," Mickey said. "That f---ing floor is too f---ed up."
"Then you're out of here, Kiddo."
So Mickey sat and watched while we skated through a very cautious practice session. Two days later, we were in Houston and Mickey's hat-of-the-day was red with white letters that said "U.S.S. Johnson." When I asked him what it signified, Mickey said, "It means that any day now I'll be sailing away into the sunset."
In the first half of the game against the Rockets, Mickey made a nifty pass to Albert King, but the Crocodile fumbled the ball out of bounds. Next, Mickey dropped another nice pass right into Bucko's hands, but Bucko dribbled the ball off his foot. After missing a couple of shots himself, Mickey tossed one more pass to Albert, who fumbled it out of bounds again. So Larry put Mickey on the bench for the rest of the half.
During half-time, Larry usually had to say something about mistakes that everybody except his favorites had made. "Mickey," Larry said, "what the f--- are you doing out there?"
"I've been waiting for this s---! 'Cause it ain't me that's f---ing up. It's your boys. I'm throwing them good g--damn passes and they're dropping them. And here you come, laying that bulls--- on me! You little half-pint motherf-----, I'm gonna kick your ass!"
So Larry said, "Take off that f---ing uniform right now!"
"No. The game ain't over and I'm gonna play some more."
Now Mickey and Larry squared off, getting ready to go at each other. The guys were saying, "No, no," and trying to separate them. That's when I started to think that I'd love to see Mickey and Larry duke it out. So I moved around the room pulling guys off Mickey, pulling guys off Larry, and clearing a space in the middle of the locker room for them to get it on. Larry liked the idea. "Yeah, let loose of him 'cause he ain't gonna do s--- to nobody!"
I would've paid to see that fight, but the second half was about to start so the assistant coaches shooed the rest of us back onto the court. We were shooting around, trying to warm up real quick, and wondering what was what. Mickey weighed only 190 pounds, but he had long arms, and Larry had a bad hip, so we figured if push ever came to punch, Larry would wind up in a hospital. Then just before the second half got underway, Mickey came sashaying over to the bench still in his uniform. When I asked Mickey what happened, he said, "Man, the motherf----- told me he was gonna trade me, so I said that suits me fine. Then I told the motherf----- that as long as I'm still here, he better play me or I will kick his little ass!" Two days later, Mickey was traded to Golden State for Sugar Ray Richardson.
The following week, Golden State played us in New Jersey and we were up by 13 points at the half. Mickey had taken an elbow to his head a couple of games before that left him with 18 stitches. He was in uniform but didn't play at all in the first half. After the intermission, not only did Mickey play, he scored a s----load of points, and led the Warriors to a dramatic comeback victory. After the game as both teams walked off the court, Mickey said to Larry, "I told you I'd be kicking your ass!"
When I first got to New Jersey, Larry said to me, "I'll never bulls--- you, Kiddo." But when it came to protecting his favorites, Larry just couldn't help bulls---ting. We were playing Washington and I was guarding Jeff Ruland while Buck Williams (at only six-foot-eight and 225 pounds) was guarding six-foot-ten, 260-pound Rick Mahorn. Ruland and Mahorn were both so big and mean that they were known as the "Bruise Brothers." This was Bucko's second year in the league so he was still trying to prove himself. After he dunked on Mahorn, Bucko strutted down court. Now, me and Mahorn knew each other from way back when Rick was in college, so I knew that Bucko was headed for trouble. To make matters worse, the next time there was a battle for a rebound, Bucko elbowed Mahorn in the nuts. Uh oh! Rick just spun around and started punching Bucko's lights out-BOP! BOP! BOP!-until I finally got close enough to wrap up Mahorn and settle him down.
Okay. A few days later, we were playing the Bullets again in New Jersey and Larry decided to change our defensive matchups. "Since you and Mahorn are so tight," he said to me, "you're gonna guard him. And Bucko, you've got Ruland." The trouble was that Ruland was also six-foot-ten, weighed close to 300 pounds and was even stronger than Mahorn.
"That won't work," I said to Larry. "Ruland is too big for Bucko to handle."
"You do the playing, Kiddo, and let me do the coaching."
Ruland got 11 points and eight rebounds in the first quarter so Larry said, "Now that you got Mahorn calmed down, Darryl, you get Ruland, and Bucko, you switch over to Mahorn." What Larry should've done was to sit Bucko on the bench and let Mike Gminski try to soft-shoe his way around Mahorn. And, as expected, with about two minutes left in a close game, Bucko tried to Bogart Mahorn and WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Rick started kicking his ass again. This time, I stayed away.
After the game, Larry was all in my face. "What kind of f---ing teammate are you not to go and help Bucko?"
"Larry," I said, "he's got to learn who he can f--- with and who he can't."
A few days later, we're playing in Cleveland and Bucko was guarding Lonnie Shelton, another powerhouse player. When Lonnie beat Bucko to the basket, Bucko got up under his legs and knocked Lonnie to the floor. "No, no," Lonnie said. "You shouldn't've done that." Somehow they got tangled up again and the next thing I saw was Bucko flat on his back and Lonnie was on top of him throwing punches. Bucko was kicking and scratching and trying to get up, so I grabbed Lonnie and pulled him away. Now me and Lonnie were p-----hunting buddies so I was able to calm him down. But while I had Lonnie in a bear hug, Bucko was dancing around the edges and trying to hit his face. So I turned Lonnie loose and he beat Bucko's ass from one end of the court to the other.
Of course, Larry blamed everything on me. "You're telling all of your buddies to jump on Bucko."
"Larry," I said, "you don't know what the f--- you're talking about."
Excerpted from Chocolate Thunder: The Uncensored Life and Times of the NBA's Original Showman, by Darryl Dawkins and Charley Rosen, © 2003 Darryl Dawkins and Charley Rosen. Reprinted with permission of Sport Media Publishing, Inc.