Larry Brown and Jaden’s Ladder
How Coach Brown is finding satisfaction away from the game.
by Johnny Nguyen
If you type “Larry Brown” into the YouTube search bar, you will find an array of videos, whether it is of Brown talking about the potential of Tyler Hansbrough or of the Hall-of-Famer displaying his ability to hold his own against the humorous honcho, David Letterman, himself. The most popular of the videos, if you were to filter the search to most viewed, is an inside dialogue between him and a referee in which he receives a technical foul. Though many would believe this action of receiving a technical foul is out of Brown’s character, I would argue the very opposite; it is exactly in alignment with his character. In the video, Brown took a stand for his players and fully backed an argument that Allen Iverson had initially put forth; however, the stance fell on deaf ears and Brown received a technical foul.
Brown has been dubbed the only coach that could work with Iverson guiding him to win the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. When Iverson had difficulties in finding a team that suited his style of play and his even less attractive attitude, Brown was the first to call general managers and coaches trying to convince them that Iverson would be a good fit for their organization. Again, it fell on deaf ears and resulted in Iverson’s current play overseas.
Larry Brown’s belief in the underdog would do anything but fall on deaf ears on April 16, 2011. Jaden’s Ladder, a non-profit organization that promotes life after domestic violence, hosted their second annual fundraiser Bright Lights, Big City Gala in Boston. Brown was not only in attendance, but also encouraged others to take notice for the cause as he lived up to his role as one of the organization’s Honorary Directors.
The night began with those in attendance taking their time to settle down as a silent auction welcomed the guests. An eclectic collection ranging from NBA autographed jerseys, to an autographed platinum disc of Jay-Z’s single Empire State of Mind made itself visible to the buyers with the highest interest. Early on the event seemed to adopt the tone of a normal fundraiser, with a guest list of that caliber, where raising money stood primary and building awareness secondary. Larry Brown, cornered by the media, carried his usual conservative demeanor; however, he seemed a bit distracted as he peered over the cameras in the direction of a guest who had just arrived. Coming back to focus, Brown continued to cater to the media.
Appetizers, entertainment and celebrity guests stirred the festivities. The venue showcased the city lights of Boston at a bird’s eye view from the Taj Hotel as the dinner transitioned dusk fully into night. As many took stage to talk about their involvement with the charity, Brown practiced perfect etiquette with subtle nods and minimal gestures, almost as if he were waiting for something. As one speaker took the stage, Brown’s attention became fully engaged. It was the same person who caught his attention upon her arrival and the apparent alleviation to his anticipation. She was a survivor of domestic violence. Her story was two-pronged; a detailed depiction of the abuse she had endured and an internal reflection of her recovery process in which she struggled but eventually prevailed. The speech was powerful in all aspects, but the part that seemed to resonate most deeply with the audience was the people she dubbed the “unsung heroes.” She further elaborated that many did not understand the impact that their simple actions had on helping her establish a belief in others and most importantly a firm belief in herself. Every guest seemed to fully understand now what they were contributing towards and what their efforts could ultimately change.
After the speech, it was hard to look at Brown the same way. He was the definition of an unsung hero. Under Brown’s guidance, Allen Iverson, the epitome of the League’s underdog, was able to take a team that everyone else counted out and lead them to the 2001 NBA Finals. Most can agree 2004 was the beginning of Iverson’s downfall as he began to have problems with his new coach and was eventually traded in 2006 to the Denver Nuggets. Often being accused as a poison to a team’s dynamic rather than a leader, Iverson was asked how he would like to be coached. Iverson responded in an exclusive interview, “I would like to be coached like I was coached with Coach Brown…I need someone to bring out the best in me.”
At the end of the evening, Jaden’s Ladder announced their success in raising over $150,000 for their cause to help victims of domestic violence to become active and vital members of society. Brown’s facial expression portrayed both passion and satisfaction; passion for his root of the underdog and satisfaction of it finally being heard.
Johnny Nguyen is a basketball fan and sneakerhead who you may remember reading about when we profiled the store he and two friends opened in Saugus, MA. You can re-read that story here, and then go to foottraffik.com for more.