Williams Just Keeping Sheets Warm

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - July 27, 2005
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If there is one real loser in the Larry Brown/ Detroit Pistons mess, it’s New York Knicks coach Herb Williams.

Tapped to take over the team after president of basketball operations, Isiah Thomas, fired former object of admiration, Lenny Wilkens, Jan. 22, Williams has been teetering on unemployment as Thomas puts everything on hold in an effort to woo another big-name coach. The hope being some magician will come in and turn around this dismal franchise. And through it all Williams has been nothing but class. Maybe that’s why he’s doomed in New York.

With 10-and-a-half years under his belt in the Knicks organization, he deserves better. As a team captain, he was a lockerroom leader who inspired teammates. He served as Patrick Ewing’s main backup and helped push the team to its greatest success since its championship season in 1973.

Thomas, showing all the support of a schoolyard bully, said after the draft, “We like Herb Williams as a coach. He did a fine job when he was here. I’m sorry. He did a fine job, you know, coaching the team.”With friends like these …

A day later he popped up with this gem of assurance. “Our mandate is to find the best possible person to coach the New York Knicks, and he’s not excluded from that.” If Zeke really felt Williams is one of the best, the job should already be his.

Thomas continued the charade by saying he may wait until October to ensure he has the right person. October? When all other teams have coaches already working on next season, the Knicks are happy to let Williams sit at the table until Brown swoops into Gotham offering salvation. Any wonder the team is in the mess that it is?

Even good buddy and former teammate Bill Laimbeer could read the writing on the wall and pulled his name from consideration. He knew any coach is just a fill in until Brown comes on board to the tune of about $10 million a year.

Now here’s the rub for Knicks fans. What happens if Brown doesn’t sign? New York has already missed out on the opportunity to land some pretty good guys such as Flip Saunders, the Piston’s choice, or Nate McMillian, who left Seattle for Portland.

Larry is 64 and not in the best of health. He may not even be ready to coach this year. So what happens if Brown does enter the asylum at some later date and in the interim Williams does a good job? It’s going to get even messier.

A Brown arrival for the upcoming season also signals trouble. There are no assurances that he can even finish the season. Detroit had its doubts, especially after his agent reportedly told Dumars, “ … there’s a good chance that he may have to shut it down in the middle of the season, and you’re going to have to look for a coach.”

New York is a bad team that is probably four or five years from being contenders. The longest stay Larry has had with any team was the six years he spent in Philly. It’s more than likely history won’t be repeated.

Yes, Larry can teach. He’s a great coach who could help right the franchise. But he is not without baggage. Brown was unwilling to be open with his old bosses in Detroit, and his refusal to douse the flames of rumor that surrounded him not only upset the guy signing his check, but, as was reported by Detroit News columnist Terry Foster, many of the players as well. Things will not get easier in New York.

His favored way of dancing around topics of interest will not play on Broadway. New York media and fans demand action and answers. Thomas is enamored with him and the fans will grant a temporary stay of execution. But if in two years Brown starts to hear the voices of movers, the fans will be relentless. Hopefully if this happens Herb Williams will be far away, enjoying the employ of another organization while happily realizing the bullet he dodged.

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