Before games he is that rare coach who writes on the locker room greaseboard, adding his own keys to those listed by his assistants, among them his 33-year-old son, Brendan. He seldom sits after the tip-off, instead kneeling to call a play or roaming in front of the bench, hands in pockets, staring upward, a Lear seemingly ready to rage. When the 48 minutes are over, red splotches have broken out on his face and his voice is a hoarse whisper. Upon reaching home he is drained, but he hangs up his soaking clothes, takes a hot shower, climbs into his pajamas and grabs a sandwich. Then he plans the next day's practice and writes up the game, a process that involves analyzing the stats, reliving what went wrong and what went right. "I don't forget games easily," says Brown.
The morning and afternoon hours before games are even more stressful. "Every game for us is a battle, uh-kay?" says Brown. "We are young and we have no history, so there is no predicting, as there is on the elite teams, what we are going to do on any given night. Now, you ask, what does that mean? It means the anxiety from the time I wake up until the game is brutal. Brutal on me physically." He tries to read (" Patterson, Grisham, all the Top 10 stuff") but also says, "I take certain pills to get through." (He would not be more specific.) During a Dec. 27 game in Dallas, Brown fainted. He says it was nothing serious and hasn't happened again. "Apart from that game-day anxiety," he says, "I never felt better."
It is, in fact, Brown's energy as well as his knowledge that the Grizzlies have responded to. "Hubie has the same enthusiasm since the moment he got here," says backup point guard Earl Watson. "He has rubbed off on us, not the other way around." Adds Battier, "Nobody believes this, but NBA players want to be coached. And they want to be coached by someone who goes at them. That's Hubie." Brown told his players when he arrived, "We're never going to turn this around until your pain of losing matches mine." Has that happened? "I think it has started to," says Brown.
And when he needs to offer inspiration, there's always the Mixer, a guy named Dick Cunningham, who averaged 10.5 minutes over a seven-year career. "You learn something new every day," says Battier. "Especially around here."