He has all the hits, but Phil Jackson still sings the praises of Larry Brown.
It's the Zen master vs. the nomad.
At 9 tonight, the Lakers and Pistons meet for the third time in the NBA Finals. It also is the second meeting of Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson and Detroit coach Larry Brown. Jackson's Lakers beat Brown's 76ers in five games in the 2001 Finals.
They'll get at it again in what is not just a matchup of the NBA's best teams, but of the league's best resumes. Maybe its best coaching minds, too.
Jackson, who once played for Brown, knows his former coach's reputation for wanderlust. In his 25 seasons in the ABA and NBA, Brown has coached in Carolina, Denver (with both leagues), New Jersey, San Antonio, Los Angeles (Clippers), Indiana, Philadelphia and now Detroit.
"That's the one thing that people have often had a good time with," Jackson said, "pointing out that he's never going to stay longer than four or five years. He always has his eyes looking out for the next situation or the next opportunity to coach, that the grass is greener on the other side, so to speak."
But look at what Brown has accomplished with those teams, going 933-713. He is 81-78 in the playoffs with a record seven teams: Nuggets, Nets, Spurs, Clippers, Pacers, 76ers and Pistons.
Don't forget that as a college coach, Brown took UCLA to the national title game in 1979 and won the national title at Kansas in 1988. In 2002, the three-time ABA coach of the year and 2001 NBA coach of the year was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. "I don't think Larry has ever not been highly respected," Jackson said. "I think that's a misnomer. He's a guy that (went) in the Hall of Fame this last year. He has not won a championship, and there aren't many coaches that have gone into the Hall of Fame without winning a championship.
"His service, his coaching ability, his influence on the game, all those things have contributed to his high respect among basketball people."
Brown's Hall of Fame plaque will have to be updated. He's making his second Finals trip in his first season with a team that had Rasheed Wallace only for the past 22 games. But for all that Brown has accomplished, no other coach has won more playoff games (81) without winning the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
And in this series, it is Jackson who could secure the greatest coaching resume in NBA history.
As a head coach, Jackson has won nine of the past 13 NBA championships. The Bulls three-peated from 1991 to 1993 and 1996 to 1998, and the Lakers won it from 2000 to 2002 under Jackson. He is the first coach to win three consecutive titles three different times. Jackson's 832-316 record and .725 winning percentage is the best in NBA history. His 174-65 playoff record is the best in league history and his nine titles is tied with Boston's Red Auerbach for the most in NBA history.
That has led to some testy exchanges between coaching legends as Jackson has neared Auerbach's milestone. Like Auerbach, Brown noted that Jackson's extraordinary success is linked to the extraordinary players he's coached: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and now, Karl Malone.
"A lot of people have stars," Brown said. "But I don't know if a lot of people have had the greatest players like he has."
But unlike Auerbach, Brown praised the way Jackson has coached those stars. This may have been Jackson's toughest assignment yet, massaging the Lakers through Gary Payton's obstinateness, Malone's age, the usual Shaq-Kobe drama and Bryant's impending rape trial.
"I admire what he has done," Brown said. "Anyone in this profession that doesn't is silly. His teams play the right way. "It's not easy to win when you are expected to win. I just think the guy's accomplished some unbelievable things in his career. When you talk about the greatest coaches of all time, he is right up there.
"It is no accident that his teams win, in my mind."