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'Where You Gonna Be Next Year, Larry?'
Gary Smith
November 12, 1984
The old question still haunts Larry Brown, though he's shown signs that coaching at Kansas could be the last stop in his odyssey
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November 12, 1984

'where You Gonna Be Next Year, Larry?'

The old question still haunts Larry Brown, though he's shown signs that coaching at Kansas could be the last stop in his odyssey

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Brown took the job, briefly, but after 84 days of haggling over recruiting, his office and his planned basketball camp, he quit and returned to the pros.

"What if I don't get a job?"

"Larry, you'll get a job."

"But what if nobody wants me?"

"Larry, calm down, everybody wants you."

In the summer of '74, in a hotel room in Moscow, the ritual was the same every day: Brown panicking, Doug Moe, his assistant, soothing.

That first season with the ABA Carolina Cougars, 1972-73, Brown had established himself as the brightest young coach in pro basketball, taking a next-to-last-place team to a 57-27 first-place finish, winning Coach of the Year at 33, wearing long hair and bib overalls and making women fans swoon. The next season they finished third. "I've never been so miserable in my life," Brown said later. "I wanted out." The franchise was sold to a group in St. Louis. Brown was out, but he didn't feel free, or even unemployed. He felt orphaned.

Now, with a team of college stars, he was in Russia, the land of his ancestry, where his grandfather's baking had gratified the palate of Nicholas just before the czar's overthrow. Instead of searching for traces of his old family, he was obsessed with finding a new one, staring every day at the hotel phone and hoping his general manager in Carolina, Carl Scheer, had found a new job where he could ask Brown aboard as coach.

One day, Scheer delivered Brown a new family: the ABA's Denver Rockets, soon to be renamed the Nuggets. Hot damn, said Larry: cozy arena, enthusiastic people, a merger with the NBA any year now.... Hell, he even knew a few streets and people out there. You're coming out with me, aren't you, Doug? That-aboy. It's gonna be perfect!

And you know something? For a few years it nearly was. He whipped a last-place team to an incredible 65-19 record his first year, 1974-75, and 60-24 his second. His third year, the team entered the NBA and stung the establishment with a 50-32 record and another division title, drawing the second-highest attendance (an average of 17,150) in league history.

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