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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Thirty-seven years passed, and the little boy never had a chance to scream or cry or pummel out his grief. Thirty-seven years of abandoning others before they could abandon him, and he and his brother and his mother have never yet talked to each other about what happened that day in Pittsburgh and how it feels to learn at six that the world can take away the person you love the most.
Larry Brown is 44 and still cannot bring himself to visit the grave.
For some reason, he finds his eyes misting and his thoughts drifting back more to his dad now. He finds himself working to restitch his relationship with Herb, now coach of the Puerto Rico Coquis in the Continental League. Sometimes he thinks about calling his mother more often, and about all the confused friends in all the places he has left behind.
"Sometimes I feel really terrible," he says. "Sometimes I think of all the players I was preaching to about never quitting, and all of a sudden I'm gone, and it's almost like I'm a hypocrite. Sometimes I look back at all the moves and say, 'You must be nuts.' I look back and see I had a lot of great things in those places.
"I don't think it's wrong to look for something perfect in life, but I realize now there isn't anything perfect—you work to make it perfect. I think I understand now there's going to be bad weather some days. I understand I have to establish something about myself here."
"The University of Kansas is a very sheltered place," Barbara points out. "He may be able to create his Camelot here."
"All I know," he says, "is that with all the things that have happened to me here—the thing with Kerry Boagni [a key sophomore forward who quit early in the season last year], the Jo Jo White thing [Brown fired the ex-Celtics star as assistant coach shortly after he took over in 1983], the Ed and Danny Manning controversy [Brown hired Ed Manning, an ex-ABA player with one year's coaching experience, to replace White, and with him bagged Ed's 6'10'�" son Danny, one of the best high school players in the country last season], and with my wife struggling here—she was much more comfortable in New Jersey—all I know is that in the past, one or two of those things, and I would be gone. I guess I must be happier here than ever."
"He could stay for 20 years," says assistant athletic director Lonny Rose, "and people would still be asking, 'When's he gonna leave?' We're not looking for a short-term coach. But commitments are made and commitments are broken. It's the nature of the business."
Thirty minutes before a late-season game against Oklahoma, the best team in the conference, Brown watches Allen Field House fill. "This place is gonna be rockin'," he says twice in three minutes.