Originally created 06/09/01

A storybook ending for Brown?

LOS ANGELES -- Larry Brown mended his contentious relationship with Allen Iverson, was coach of the year and reached the NBA Finals for the first time.

If Brown really is contemplating retirement, he couldn't have picked a better ending. Well, three more victories would make it perfect.

Brown isn't sure if he's coming back to coach the Philadelphia 76ers next season. Right now, he's just focusing on the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I'd appreciate it if we just let me get through this year and enjoy the fact that I'm here participating in this event, and then we'll see what happens," Brown said Thursday.

The Sixers beat the heavily favored Lakers 107-101 in overtime Wednesday night for a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Before the game, Brown told a reporter he's mulling retirement.

"Because I've had some health problems, because I've gone two years without a break," Brown said. "I was qualifying coach two years ago (for the U.S. Olympic team), I was Rudy's (Tomjanovich) assistant at the Olympics this year, I have two young children. I just thought this was not the time to make a definitive decision one way or another."

The 61-year-old Brown is coaching his 18th NBA season and for the 29th year in a row, including stints in the ABA and college. He has three years remaining on his contract.

Brown missed three games during an 0-4 road trip in March to be treated for acid reflux and a hernia. In December, he took a couple days off from practice, saying he just needed a break - from himself, from basketball and from his team.

Sixers president Pat Croce talked to Brown after Game 1 and expects him to return next year.

"I think he just needs his batteries recharged," Croce said. "This isn't the time of year to talk about what he planned to do in the future, because he extended this year into June, which is great for us, but previous he had the Olympics.

"I think he's just fatigued. He wants to leave his options open. He'll spend two months in Malibu this summer and come back ready to go."

Croce, however, isn't sure if he will be back next season. He's in the final year of his contract and has had discussions with chairman Ed Snider about an extension.

"Just like Larry, I'd like to disappear for a few weeks," Croce said.

Croce said earlier this season he would pursue other challenges if the Sixers win a championship this year. Now that Philadelphia is three games away from that goal, Croce is having second thoughts.

"I did say that, but I reserve the right to change my mind," Croce said. "You know me, I always like challenges, bigger and better challenges. This was a great challenge. ... How can you leave? You get to celebrate with friends and family and fans. It's a special feeling."

This isn't the first time Brown has contemplated leaving Philadelphia. He nearly left the Sixers last summer to coach at North Carolina, his alma mater.

But he stayed, led the Sixers to 56 victories and to the finals for the first time in 18 years.


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