Bad contracts aren’t only limited to players. Larry Brown lasted only one year out the five he signed up for, but was his deal worse than the Jerome James or Allan Houston blunders? It’s hard to say argue against it.
In 2005, it seemed like a match made in heaven. The New York Knicks ended each of their last two seasons with Herb Williams as their interim head coach and needed someone who commanded the respect of their superstar, Stephon Marbury. Larry Brown, who was able to earn the trust of Allen Iverson in Philadelphia, but was coming off of back-to-back NBA Finals appearances with the Pistons, was known for his frequent exploration of better jobs. He shopped around one too many times, leaving the Detroit with no other option than to buy out his contract, making a Hall of Famer available to the highest bidder. The deadly combination of Isiah Thomas and James Dolan, of course, could not be outbid and offered Brown a five-year $50 million contract. The result was one of the most embarrassing seasons in Knicks history, despite the positive spin of this video:
The 2005-06 Knicks were as bad off the court as they were on it, ending the season with a 23-59 record and a a direct spotlight of unwanted media attention. It was the beginning of the end for Marbury, who started the year as a beloved, fellow New Yorker and ended it as the money stealing villain. It all came to a head at 30,000 feet above the air, when Starbury lost his cool upon finding out about his demotion from the starting lineup on a flight to Phoenix. He went AWOL for that night’s game, but didn’t go down without a fight, reportedly attempting to blackmail his way back in to the starting five. This is the type of stuff that the media just loves to gobble up, and it really turned up the heat on both Thomas and Marbury.
Fast forward to 1:55 of the video to see the welcome New York gave Marbury upon returning from his tantrum.
Coach Brown was of no help. He had his own dose of spats with Marbury and seemingly a new starting lineup every night. It didn’t take long for him to lose the team, and because of the size of his contract, Brown refused to resign upon the request of Isiah, who was forced to fire him and cut a check of over $18 million. The situation left such a sour taste in Brown’s mouth that he took the very next job he could get, guiding the lowly Charlotte Bobcats to their only playoff appearance in franchise history shortly thereafter. The pressure mounted on Isiah to the point that the only way to right the ship was to head downstairs and coach himself, or at least attempt to. We all know how well that experiment worked out.
At the time, the 2005-06 season was the worst ever by the Knicks. No, Brown’s contract didn’t count against the salary cap, but it has to be considered on of the worst in franchise history.