A visits enough for ex-Blazer assistant
Herb Brown is thrilled to be coaching with little brother Larry in Detroit
Herb Brown enjoyed most of his two years living in Portland Ñ he even married a woman he met here. His experience as an assistant coach in the Trail Blazer organization, though, left a lot to be desired.
Brown, now an assistant with Detroit, comes back to Portland on Thursday when the Pistons take on the Blazers in the Rose Garden. Most of the attention will be focused on public enemy No. 1, Rasheed Wallace, and his highly anticipated duel with the Blazers Ñ his former team. Brown's arrival provides an adjunct bit of drama.
'It has been a breath of fresh air for me in Detroit,' Brown, 67, says of his time with the Pistons, working under his younger brother Larry, the team's respected head coach. 'I loved Portland, loved working with the players there, miss a lot about the city. But there were certain things I didn't like about working there.
'I enjoy coming to work every day now. In Portland, it was the first time in my career Ñ and I've been a coach for over 40 years Ñ where I didn't enjoy coming to work.'
Herb Brown served as an assistant during Maurice Cheeks' first two years as head coach, after working the 2000-01 season with Cheeks on Larry Brown's staff in Philadelphia. Larry thought Herb could provide a veteran hand to Cheeks and recommended the move. Cheeks helped persuade then-General Manager Bob Whitsitt to make the hire.
Brown figured his input was important, both for the team's success and Cheeks' development as the head man. However, their opinions didn't always coincide, and Cheeks sometimes resented a differing voice.
At the end of last season, Cheeks told Brown, who had a year left on his contract, that he wouldn't be returning as an assistant coach. Instead, he was offered a position as an advance scout, with a cut in pay.
After a dressing-down by Cheeks on his final day Ñ Cheeks felt Brown had gone to the media with his complaints Ñ Brown departed for Detroit to rejoin his brother and return to the organization for which he served as head coach from 1976-78.
'I did what I had to do in Portland,' he says. 'I was loyal to the organization. I helped the team. I left for a better opportunity. Everything in Detroit is better. I had been looking for a year to get out of (Portland). I had decided I didn't want to stay there, the way the thing was run and structured.
'Now I am in a situation where everybody is on the same page. We have a great team president (Joe Dumars), a terrific group of coaches who work very well together. I am in a good situation, where everybody is covering everybody else's back. It is an organization where everything is based on trust.'
Brown declines to address his situation with Cheeks. They have not spoken since he left Portland. Asked if he has a relationship with Cheeks now, Brown responds: 'I never really thought about it. He never called me, and I have never called him.'
But Brown makes it clear that he was not impressed with the way Whitsitt ran the franchise.
'When I got there, there was no accountability within the organization,' Brown says. 'The philosophy was to get as many good players as you can, don't worry about whether they can work together, or if they are trying to get each other's job. Don't worry about whether you have a solid group of players whose main interest is in trying to get better and win a championship. In my way of thinking, that is not the way to do it.'
Brown spent a good deal of time in the offseasons working with Damon Stoudamire.
'Every year, they tried to get a player or two to take Damon's starting spot,' Brown says. 'They were doing a tremendous disservice to a terrific kid and fine player who loves the city and organization. They should have realized he is the kind of person a team wants. They never worked with him in the way that was necessary to bring out the best of him.'
Brown was appalled with the way management dealt with player transgressions.
'If somebody is having problems that should be addressed, you need to work with him directly,' Brown says. 'Don't put your head in the sand like an ostrich. Deal with things straight up. You need to institute policies. The former administration didn't respect anybody. They -didn't respect the coaches. They felt like they knew more than the coaches do. They made it very hard for Maurice. They put a lot of pressure on him. When they should have been supportive, they weren't supportive.'
Brown was an assistant coach with Houston during the time current Blazer President Steve Patterson's father, Ray, was president of the Rockets.
'I have the utmost respect for Steve's dad,' Brown says. 'I know Steve a little bit, and it seems he and (new GM John Nash) have worked on developing better chemistry while instituting a policy of accountability. It looks like they are creating a pleasant work environment. It is a great city, with great fans and tremendous tradition. If they had been there when I was there, maybe I would still be there.'