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Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups told off Larry Brown after Game 2 of the 2004 Finals

Jonathan Abrams of Grantland:

Larry Brown walked down the aisle of the bus transporting his Pistons, looking even more solemn than usual. Hours earlier, Detroit led Game 2 of the 2004 NBA Finals by three points with 10.9 seconds remaining. Brown instructed his team to foul, but the veterans in the huddle — Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, and Chauncey Billups — resisted his order. Brown relented, but only on the condition that should Shaquille O’Neal catch the ball, they foul him immediately. O’Neal did receive the ball on the ensuing possession, but he quickly passed to Luke Walton, who found Kobe Bryant for an acrobatic 3-pointer that sent Staples Center into a frenzy. The Lakers prevailed easily in overtime, evening the series and leaving the Pistons reeling. "We’re crushed," Brown told reporters after the game. "We had a winnable game. And everybody in that locker room’s down."

These were the Lakers, a dream team recalibrated: Bryant and O’Neal in their primes, Gary Payton and Karl Malone in the twilight of their careers, heavy favorites to win the franchise’s fourth title in five years. With the series headed back to Detroit for three games, the Pistons had just handed them a second life. Brown sauntered to the back of the bus and thought about apologizing to his team, knowing he should have been more adamant about the foul.

"I remember in Philly … " Brown started.

Ben Wallace cut him off: "This ain’t Philly."

Brown kept going, his voice rising. Chauncey Billups listened until he’d heard enough.

"Go back to the front of the bus," Billups told his coach. "We’re not coming back to L.A."

Those Pistons starters were really something. They fiercely believed in themselves – even calling the unit “Best Five Alive – and we know they were right in this situation, because, of course, the Pistons won three straight at The Palace and didn’t go back to L.A.

But that story also illustrates the stubbornness of the Pistons’ veterans that would eventually undo them when they didn’t have a coach like Brown, who had the résumé to push back at times and provide a much-needed other voice.

As cool as that story is for 2004, it’s easy to see how the mutiny under John Kuester happened a few years later.

15 Comments

  • Dec 13, 201211:03 am
    by Crispus

    Reply

    Cool article, but who’s Larry Brow?

  • Dec 13, 201211:20 am
    by Victor

    Reply

    Wow! Really nice article. 
    I think that also shows that Flip Saunders wasn’t the man for the job.
     

  • Dec 13, 201211:51 am
    by I HATE FRANK

    Reply

    We’ve had some really good/great caoches for awhile….. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

  • Dec 13, 201211:55 am
    by vic

    Reply

    This is a great story. It perfectly illustrates my thoughts from the other day.

    As talented as they were, its decision making that pushes you over the edge into winning when it counts.
    When they lost Larry Brown, the run was over. That sounds obvious now but are they using that insight to make decisions going forward?

    There are only a few championship level coaches, so if you don’t have one, you need an elite pass first player, a coach on the floor to execute winning decisions.

    • Dec 13, 20122:26 pm
      by Derek

      Reply

      Pistons had already lost LB going into the season after they won the Finals.  LB was already lobbying for the Knicks position during the season.  Good riddance!  That going to work crew went hard, even when their coach was crushed after that game 2 loss and while he was trying to leave for another franchise.

      We should have beat the Spurs that following year.
      We should have beat the Heat and the Cavs after that.

      Those six years of elite status was great while they lasted.

      • Dec 13, 20129:45 pm
        by TheDude

        Reply

        Sigh, I say this every chance I get.

  • Dec 13, 201212:38 pm
    by I HATE FRANK

    Reply

    EXACTLY!!!

    The Heat do not have an elite coach, but they do have Lebron….

    Mike Brown had Lebron, 2 years later no Lebron he has no job….

    I believe the best coaches who can stand on coaching alone can get the most out of there talent, they actually capture the imagination of the players. Which allows them to see and believe, beyond what they thought they were capable of .

    • Dec 13, 201212:42 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I dunno … I’d argue Spo is elite. He’s still young, but he’s had great success in Miami, even prior to LeBron. That ragtag team of expiring contracts he had surrounding Wade prior to signing Bosh and Lebron made the playoffs and gave the Celtics a scare in the first round. Spo is underrated because Miami obviously has insane talent, but I still think he’s a really good coach. Getting that locker room (and Pat Riley, for that matter) to respect you is no easy task.

      • Dec 13, 20122:42 pm
        by Vic

        Reply

        I like Spo because he had the intelligence to turn Lebron into a PF and game plan a championship out of a pads first pf.

        Now if we could get a coach that can do that with Greg Monroe… 

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