By VIN PARISESpecial to ZAGSBLOGHEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Larry Brown’s recent past met his present here Saturday evening.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, accompanied by assistant coaches Herb Williams, Darrell Walker and Jim Todd, were waiting to say hello after Southern Methodist’s 73-47 victory over a troubled Hofstra squad that played its first game since four players were arrested for burglary and kicked out of school.
Woodson will coach the first-place Knicks (11-4) Sunday afternoon agains the Phoenix Suns, trying to extend the team’s 6-0 home start.
But on this night, the Knicks coach was simply waiting for his ex-boss, mentor and friend with whom he won the 2004 NBA title with the Detroit Pistons.
“He is the best,” said Woodson, who used to share the same agent as Brown, Joe Glass. “He’s the absolute best.”
What were Larry Brown’s first words when he sat down for the post game press conference”
“How about those Knicks?” asked the man who coached the team in the 2005-06 season but was fired after receiving an $18.5 million settlement.
The media laughed, Mike Woodson blushed and Larry Brown smirked. “We tried to run some of their stuff tonight — I don’t know if it worked, but we tried,” joked Brown.
A large media contingent turned around in unison toward Woodson, who is 17-1 at Madison Square Garden as coach of the Knicks.
“It’s all his stuff, trust me,” said Woodson.
Brown later expressed his support and concern for Hofstra’s situation, in which they have been reduced to seven scholarship players due to the recent scandal.
“You can’t lose four quality players in one day and expect to have success,” Brown said. “I told [Hofstra coach] Mo [Cassara] before the game I felt real bad about it.”
Brown, 72, will enter the Big East Conference next season when Syracuse and Pittsburgh will join the ACC.
Notre Dame and Rutgers will soon follow those Big East stalwarts out the door.
Still, SMU (8-1) should be strong going forward with junior guard Nick Russell (20 points), sophomore guard Ryan Manuel andjunior forward Shawn Williams leading the way.
The Mustangs are also in the mix for Keith Frazier, a 6-foot-5, five-star shooting guard from Dallas Kimball who recently attended an SMU game.
Frazier, who will sign in the spring, is also considering Texas, Texas A&M, LSU and Arizona.
Brown also made late runs at Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Kentucky), Savon Goodman (UNLV) and Chris Obekpa (St. John’s), proving his recruiting acumen.
“We’re gonna be really good, really soon,” Brown said. I don’t know what conference we’ll be in, the way everything is going.”
Brown also got philosophical in front of his former assistant, Woodson, and the crowd.
“I know I don’t have my SMU shirt on right now, but I’ve never been happier,” Brown said.
“This is what it’s all about guys, remember that. Other than your family and all that great stuff — these days of just being around coaches and the game; these are going to be the moments you remember forever.
Brown has to be in basketball gymnasiums; even if it’s in July in Vegas. He craves being around it. He needs it.
“I probably drove him crazy but [current Villanova and former Hofstra coach] Jay Wright probably saved my life after I got fired from Charlotte,” Brown said. “I needed to be around the game at that time and I’m very thankful for those days in Philadelphia with Jay.”
During the game, he barked orders at his point guard, he disagreed often with the officials and graciously shook hands afterwards like he was thanking a restaurant owner for a free meal.
But after the buzzer sounded Saturday was when he finally smiled. The franchise which broke his heart in 2006, was now at Hofstra to support one of the men who created the concept of “Coaching Tree.”
With that, Larry Brown was gone. He hugged his former assistant and he caught up with Herb Williams. He left with his wife, Shelly, by his side and another victory on his resume.
He was around the coaching fraternity. He was with the guys, he was back on Long Island and he talked hoops the entire day.
They are the type of days Larry Brown still craves.
And his former protege, Woodson, was there to see it all go down.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.