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May 09, 2002

Reconcilable Differences
By Dan Patrick

I'm surprised that issues between Allen Iverson and Larry Brown have resurfaced. They've been through this before, and following past outbursts, they've hugged and made up. Why go through it again?

Brown makes a good case about teamwork and how important it is for Iverson, his star player, to attend all practices -- and be on time. Iverson feels that if he gives his heart and soul for 40 minutes in games, he's entitled to miss a few practices.

In any sport, a cohesive player-coach relationship is certainly helpful, but it's not necessarily the determining factor in a team's success.

Who's right and who's wrong? Does it really matter?

Like any love-hate relationship, the catalyst is an unalterable difference of opinion for both parties. Therefore, a solution is seldom reached.

The best you can do is agree to disagree, remain copasetic and move forward. I thought Brown and Iverson had reached that point long ago. They sure hugged enough last year on their way to the NBA Finals. The team's relative lack of success this year is probably at the heart of this latest dispute.

How many times do you suffer through the same disagreement before calling it quits? And when that time comes, who goes and who stays?

Brown, a no-nonsense, tough guy during his ABA playing days, may feel he's come full circle with trying to understand Iverson. At 61, Brown has been known to play checkers with his coaching career, hopping from job to job. He likes to come in, take over, make things better and move on. Now that he's accomplished that in Philadelphia, regardless of his feelings toward Iverson, he may be ready to make another move.

At his Tuesday press conference, Iverson sounded as if he didn't know what to make of the situation. While he made it very clear he feels entitled to skip practices, he continually contradicted himself regarding the situation as a whole. I found myself asking, does he love or hate Larry Brown? Does he want Brown to stay or go? Does Iverson want to stay or go? He couldn't get out of his own way.

In any sport, a cohesive player-coach relationship is certainly helpful, but it's not necessarily the determining factor in a team's success. Often, it's less important to like each other than to have mutual respect and understanding for one another.

Coaches have different methods of getting the most out of their players. And negative energy is not always a recipe for disaster. Sometimes a coach will push the right buttons and produce positive results, and naturally that coach is applauded. But other times, coaches push the wrong buttons and a bomb detonates. It's really a game of chance when you're dealing with other people's emotions.

It's not uncommon for a coach and player to play nice on the surface when deep down they're not on the same page. Though their discontent for one another was kept fairly quiet, former Broncos head coach Dan Reeves and star quarterback John Elway didn't see eye-to-eye. Reeves and Elway had plenty of success, but Elway won his two Super Bowls under Mike Shanahan. Steve Mariucci's off-the-field disagreements with Terrell Owens certainly haven't hindered Owens' on-field performance. But Mariucci will have to continue to handle his star receiver carefully and make the team succeed with Owens and not in spite of him.

L.A. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson certainly has done his share of tweaking his star players, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Jackson went so far as to say that Kobe would manipulate the game so he'd get the last-second shot. Jackson's tactics were successful, and the Lakers are en route to their third championship in three years.

The bottom line is that both Brown and Iverson share a common goal: winning a championship. They need each other to reach that goal. They made it to the finals last season -- together. To get there again, they'll need to reach a compromise and keep their other issues private.

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