Larry Brown, the only basketball coach to have won both an NBA and NCAA title, might soon be trying to win a Long Island high school championship, as well.
Brown, the well-traveled coach who played at UNC in the early 1960s, and Long Beach (N.Y.) High School in the late 1950s, has expressed interest in the boys varsity coaching vacancy at East Hampton High School, athletic director Joe Vasile-Cozzo said.
“I’m trying to figure things out, to be honest with you,” Brown told Newsday by telephone on Tuesday. “I’m interested in helping kids, but I don’t want to do anything unless I’m 100 percent in. I don’t think it would be fair to the kids.”
Brown, 76, said he has had an offseason home in East Hampton for 14 years. He said he’s considering coaching high school players because of the possibility that he will spend the entire year here for the first time.
“I was always hopeful,” Brown said, “that someday I would have the opportunity to do this.”
Brown planned to attend open gym on Tuesday night and in the coming days to meet with players. He also plans to sit down with Vasile-Cozzo to discuss specifics.
“I can’t believe it’s gotten this far,” Brown said.
Brown is just two months removed from his last coaching job at Southern Methodist, where he resigned in July, but he said the time away has already been difficult for him.
“I’m really trying to find myself right now, to be honest,” he said. “My hope is I get to do something, it’s in basketball and I feel like I’m making a contribution.”
At SMU, Brown built a winning program but ran into trouble with the NCAA. Last year SMU was placed on probation, lost scholarships and was deemed ineligible for 2016 postseason play because of instances of “academic fraud, unethical conduct and head coach control.”
Best known for his years coaching Allen Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers, Brown has a well-earned reputation as a coaching nomad. He began his coaching career as an assistant with North Carolina in 1965 and has had head coaching jobs with two ABA teams, three Division I college programs and nine NBA teams, including the Knicks from 2005-06.
Now he’s trying to figure out what’s next.
“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way,” Brown said, “but nobody has a better background than me, when you look at who I played for, when you look at who sat besides me as a coach and you look at who I’ve been fortunate enough to coach and teach.
“I feel like I have so much knowledge that I want to share with other people and I don’t know how to go about it right now. I’m trying to find that.”
Since leaving SMU Brown said he has considered coaching in Europe and has thought about opening a basketball academy. He also said coaches from NBA and collegiate teams have asked him to come by to watch practice and speak to their players.
But he’s also open to the idea of coaching East Hampton players who were wearing diapers when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 2002.
Vasile-Cozzo spoke with Brown for the first time on Tuesday morning about the opening, which came about when their recently hired coach, Jesse Shapiro, resigned abruptly last week. He already has a new coach lined up, but doesn’t anticipate any problems if Brown says yes.
“If he walks in the gym,” Vasile-Cozzo said, “he’s the man.”
Brown said when he was growing up he envisioned himself teaching American history and coaching three sports in high school. He knows this is as close as he’ll come to that.
“I don’t care what level it is on,” he said. “As long as I can make players better, make coaches better, that’s what I want to do.”
Born: Sept. 14, 1940 (Age: 76) in Brooklyn
High School: Long Beach
College: University of North Carolina
Hall of Fame: Inducted as coach in 2002
Carolina Cougars (ABA): 1972-74 (104-64)
Denver Nuggets (ABA/NBA): 1974-79 (251-134)
New Jersey Nets: 1981-83 (91-67)
San Antonio Spurs: 1988-92 (153-131)
Los Angeles Clippers: 1992-93 (64-53)
Indiana Pacers: 1993-97 (190-138)
Philadelphia 76ers: 1997-2003 (255-205)
Detroit Pistons: 2003-05 (108-56)
Knicks: 2005-06 (23-59)
Charlotte Bobcats: 2008-2010 (88-104)
Overall record: 1,327-1,011
UCLA: 1979-81 (42-17)
Kansas: 1983-88 (135-44)
SMU: 2012-2016 (94-39)
Overall record: 271-100
NCAA: Kansas, 1988
NBA: Detroit Pistons, 2004
1972-73:ABACoach of the Year (Carolina)
1974-75:ABACoach of the Year (Denver)
1975-76: ABACoach of the Year (Denver)
2000-01: NBACoach of the Year (Phila.)