- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Rick Carlisle sat elbow to elbow with the man who had just fired him, Joe Dumars. In a bizarre scene, talk turned to Larry Brown, who will become Detroit’s next coach.

“If you think he’s going to bring in a stiff behind me, you’re nuts,” Carlisle said yesterday. “He’s going to bring in a big-time guy, and if he can do that he will have done his job.”

Carlisle was fired with one year and $2million left on his contract despite winning two straight division titles, 100 regular-season games and a Coach of the Year Award, plus leading the Pistons to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1991.

He will be replaced by Brown, who already has reached agreement with the Pistons on a long-term deal, according to a source within the league with knowledge of the discussions between the Pistons and Brown. The source spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, saying the hiring will become official tomorrow.

Yesterday’s news conference was strange — Carlisle poking fun at himself during an opening statement, then initiating jokes and defending the decision when Dumars was pressed to explain the dismissal.

“The guy at the gate almost wouldn’t let me in to my own firing,” Carlisle said.

When Dumars said, “This is not a fun day at all,” Carlisle responded, “It’s all right. You can have fun with it.”

Brown resigned as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday after six seasons. The Sixers released him from a contractual clause that prohibited him from coaching another NBA team if he left Philadelphia prematurely.

Counting Detroit, there are eight NBA coaching vacancies. When asked about Brown, Dumars said, “We’ll be talking to him,” adding that he has heard Brown’s name linked to openings in Houston, Cleveland and Washington.

“This is not about Larry Brown, this is about Rick Carlisle,” Dumars added.

Brown did not return two messages left by the AP at his home.

Philadelphia captain Eric Snow understands why the Pistons are going after his former coach.

“With Rick Carlisle gone, it would be great for Detroit’s organization if it was fortunate enough to get Larry Brown,” Snow said. “He’s a Hall of Famer who is a great coach and a great teacher that would make every one of their players better, and that would make the Pistons even better.”

Carlisle, in his first head coaching job, helped turn Detroit from a lottery team into the top-seeded team in the East this season. He was honored as NBA Coach of the Year for the 2001-02 season. He led the Pistons to a 100-64 regular-season record and a 12-15 postseason mark over two years.

The Pistons’ season ended May24 when they were swept by New Jersey in the conference finals. Carlisle’s coaching was publicly criticized during the first round when Detroit fell behind 3-1 against Orlando. But he turned to little-used Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur to generate some offense and help the Pistons advance.

“You can get into a conversation about what may or not be fair, or you can be excited about being at the peak of your career,” Carlisle said. “I’ll look back and remember the good things and the things that were accomplished by a group that no one thought had a chance.”

Carlisle was hired as Detroit’s coach May25, 2001, after the team fired George Irvine following a 32-50 season. There was believed to be tension between Dumars and Carlisle, but yesterday both denied that was true.

Carlisle said he was unsure if he would pursue a coaching job right away or take a year off to be a television analyst.

“There was never any talk of an extension — there was none from me to Joe, or from them to me. I didn’t feel that one was owed to me,” Carlisle said. “I was ready to honor the last year of my contract and be judged after three years. That would have been fine.”

Brown, 62, had two years left in his contract that paid him $6million per season in Philadelphia. He also has coached Denver (five years), Indiana (four years), San Antonio (3 years), New Jersey (two years), Carolina of the ABA (two years) and the Clippers (18 months).

Brown’s tenure with the 76ers was his longest in his 31-year coaching career. He led the Sixers to the playoffs for five straight seasons, including the 2001 NBA Finals, and will coach the U.S. men’s national team this summer at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico.

He has records of 879-685 in the NBA, and 1,285-853, including in ABA and college ranks. Brown won an NCAA championship with Kansas in 1988, and became the first coach to take six NBA teams to the playoffs when the 76ers made it in 1999.

Brown will inherit a Pistons team that has the No.2 pick in the June 26draft. Detroit likely will select a scorer — Darko Milicic of Serbia or Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony — to complement a young nucleus of Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace and rookies Okur and Prince.

Brown’s brother, Herb, was coach of the Pistons from 1975-76 through 1977-78.

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