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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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But the Nuggets failed in the playoffs for a third straight year, and then a fourth, and Brown's need to be the perfect father-lover-coach-dresser-nice guy was threatened. The franchise was underfinanced. The pressure grew. People began saying Brown's team wasn't physical enough—with illness-prone Bobby Jones and the 6'3�" Thompson at forward and 6'9" Dan Issel at center—to win a rugged seven-game series in May, when opponents had time to prepare for Brown's press. They said Brown's burn to win turned so hot during the playoffs, it singed his team.

"The man had a heart of gold and was one of the greatest coaches I ever played for," says former Nugget guard Mack Calvin, "but during the playoffs he became like a madman. Everything we'd done would change. Lineup changes, new plays, forwards bringing the ball up instead of the guards, him calling the plays instead of me. During the season we were a family, but in the playoffs he'd scream so much you couldn't concentrate."

Brown knew he should surround himself with young, eager, pliable players that he could touch, that he could affect. And yet, the playoff cloud growing darker, he would begin to think that with just a couple more changes....

Before the '78-79 season, 76ers forward George McGinnis became available. Brown had coached him in an ABA All-Star game and knew his reputation as an idler in practice. But now, at a restaurant in the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Spurs coach Moe, 76ers coach Billy Cunningham and Brown—three good friends from UNC—sat and flirted with the idea of the trade: McGinnis and Ralph Simpson for Bobby Jones. Moe looked at Brown as if he were a lunatic: "Larry, if you make that trade, you're sick!" Billy C. kicked Moe in the shin under the table, and the pain made him realize he hadn't been quite fair. "Billy," he bellowed, "if you don't make that trade, you're sick!"

The deal was struck, and then two other older players—Charlie Scott and Tom Boswell—were grafted onto Brown's squad of Boy Scouts. Scheer: "I could've said no. But I had such great feelings about Larry as a motivator and a coach, I was awestruck." Brown: "I thought if I compromised just a little...."

The first day of practice, during three-man fast-break drills, McGinnis tied his shoes, blew his nose and walked so slowly back to his line that he accidentally missed half his turns.

"Hey, we don't practice like that here," Brown declared in a postpractice meeting.

"Then maybe you should trade me," McGinnis said.

"Fine, I'll take care of that in the next half hour," Brown shot back. He went to the telephone, called Scheer, and was stunned to hear the G.M. tell him he couldn't trade a superstar they'd built preseason advertising around after one day of practice.

"I knew that day I was gone," Brown said.

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