Thursday, June 22, 2006

Larry Brown fired, Isiah will be next

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Knicks put Larry Brown out of his coaching misery Thursday, ending weeks of uncertainty by firing the Hall of Fame coach with four years and $40 million left on his contract. President and general manager Isiah Thomas was named to replace Brown as coach.

In Brown's one season in New York, the Knicks stumbled to a 23-59 record -- second worst in the NBA and matching the most losses in club history.

But the postseason may have been even more difficult for Brown.

His coaching status had been in limbo for months, and reports surfaced in May that owner James Dolan was looking to buy out Brown's contract. It was at about that time that Brown called himself a "dead man walking" because of the uncertainty.

"No one in our organization is happy with last season and we all accept responsibility for our performance," Thomas said in a statement released by the Knicks. "This has been a difficult time for the entire organization and our fans.

"Larry Brown is a great coach, but for various reasons, bringing him to the Knicks did not turn out the way we had hoped and we wish him the best in the future."

Brown endured a miserable season with the Knicks, squabbling with star guard Stephon Marbury and other players and missing three games in April because of illness. He had only one worse season as a coach, when he went 21-61 with the San Antonio Spurs in 1988-89.

The Hall of Fame coach signed a five-year deal with the Knicks before last season worth a reported $50 million.

A message seeking comment was left Thursday morning for Brown at his home in East Hampton, N.Y.

Brown, a Brooklyn native, described his hiring last year as a "dream job," and the Knicks hoped his homecoming would lead to a long-awaited return to the playoffs. But despite a league-high payroll of more than $120 million, New York struggled throughout the season.

Thomas joined the Knicks as president and GM in December 2003. He was coach of the Indiana Pacers for three seasons through 2002-03, compiling a 131-115 record.

Brown coached the Detroit Pistons to the NBA title in the 2003-04 season. He missed 17 games the following year with the Pistons because of hip replacement surgery. That led to a bladder problem that required surgery.

"Larry has had a long and storied career. We hired him last summer with the expectation that he would be with the Knicks for a long time," Dolan said. "Sometimes decisions work and sometimes they don't."

Miami defeats Dallas for NBA Championship

DALLAS (AP) -- Pat Riley first promised it 11 years ago: a Miami Heat victory parade down Biscayne Boulevard. Shaquille O'Neal guaranteed it two summers ago, vowing to add a fourth ring to his big hand in his new city.

And with one tenacious game after another in these NBA finals, Dwyane Wade delivered both.

The Miami Heat are champions for the first time, thanks to two basketball greats who made good on their promises -- and the next great one, whose promise seems unlimited.

The man they call "Flash" had 36 points and 10 rebounds in the teeth of a hostile Dallas crowd Tuesday night, capping his magnificent playoffs and the Heat's sizzling four-game comeback by leading Miami past the Mavericks 95-92.

"It's one of the best feelings, next to my wife and my son, that I've ever had in my life," Wade said. "I'm going to live it up!"

The Heat roared back from a two-game deficit to win the NBA finals in six. Wade, the obvious finals MVP, cemented his superstardom with a dominant four-game performance capped by four pressure-packed, final-minute free throws in the same building where Miami went down two games to none.

He even missed a pair in the waning seconds, giving Dallas a final shot to tie. But Jason Terry missed an open look for 3, and Wade grabbed the rebound and flung it joyously into the stands as time expired.

Where there's a Wade, there's a will. His grace added a fifth ring to Riley's finger -- third-most among NBA coaches -- and the first jewelry in Shaq's collection with no connection to Kobe Bryant.

"The great Pat Riley told me we were going to win today," said O'Neal, who had nine points and 12 rebounds. "I didn't have the best game. But D-Wade's been doing it all year. He's the best player ever."