AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Larry Brown's first season coaching the Pistons was his 32nd overall at the professional level, including the NBA and ABA. He's spent 21 seasons as a head coach in the NBA and entered Game 5 one win shy of claiming his first NBA title as a coach.
Brown admittedly dealt with butterflies before Game 5's tip-off yesterday at The Palace.
"It's like every game to me. I'm nervous all day and days take a long time to pass," Brown said during his pre-game press conference.
"Fortunately, we got in early and watched a little film and had a shoot-around."
It took former Boston Celtics coaches Red Auerbach and Bill Fitch 11 seasons coaching in the NBA before finally leading their teams to NBA championships. No other coach who had led a team to an NBA title had taken longer to finally capture the ultimate prize.
Pat Riley, Paul Westhead, Bill Sharman, George Senesky, John Kundla and Ed Gottlieb make up a rare coaching fraternity that successfully finished their first seasons coaching in the NBA by guiding their teams to titles.
Brown coached Kansas to an NCAA title and entered Game 5 with 1,162 wins between the NBA and ABA. The Dean Smith disciple insists winning a NBA championship would not certify his place as a respected coach and winner.
"I came from a program that was about the players, so it's a thrill for me to be part of it and watch our players get better and be successful," Brown said. "When you have to validate yourself, like I hear all the time, by winning a championship, that doesn't mean a thing to me."
Nevertheless, a title for the Pistons still places Brown in rare company.
Dick Motta coached 10 seasons in the NBA before he finally coached a team to an NBA title. Jack Ramsay needed nine seasons, Chuck Daly, Lenny Wilkens and Red Holzman spent seven seasons before they celebrated NBA title success.
Billy Cunningham, Al Attles and Al Cervi took six seasons, Tom Heinsohn five, K.C. Jones four; Gregg Popovich, Rudy Tomjanovich, Larry Costello and Les Harrison three and Phil Jackson, Bill Russell, Alex Hannum and Buddy Jeannett two.
LAKERS LIKE HYPE: The mood around Detroit before Game 5 was upbeat. Callers into all-sports radio stations were guaranteeing another NBA title for the Pistons. Many were saying it was just a matter of time.
L.A. coach Phil Jackson admitted the Lakers couldn't help but notice the enthusiasm that's spread throughout the city. He thought it all could benefit the Lakers, who needed to win Game 5 to force the series back to the Staples Center.
"[We] are motivated because of that," Jackson said during his pre-game meeting with the media. "I think it's an extra added incentive. They will need it."
Ironically, Pistons coach Larry Brown opted for a different approach to all of the hype and hoopla.
"I'm trying to avoid it," Brown said.
FOR THE RECORD: The Los Angeles Lakers hold the record for most playoff appearances by a franchise with 52. The Detroit Pistons rank sixth overall with 35 playoff appearances counting this season. The Boston Celtics rank second with 44.
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