Larry Brown, the only coach to guide teams to both NBA and NCAA titles, was named Thursday by the National Basketball Coaches Association as the winner of the 2021 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award.
Brown’s longest NBA coaching stint was six years with the 76ers. He guided the Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals before losing in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers.
During 26 NBA seasons with nine teams, Brown went 1098-904 (.548). Besides taking the Sixers to the Finals, he won the 2003-2004 NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons, He also took the Pistons to the Finals the next year, and they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.
Brown also coached Carolina and Denver in the ABA, going 229-107 (.682) in four seasons.
In 11 college seasons as head coach with UCLA, Kansas, and SMU, Brown went 262-100 (.724). His 1987-88 Kansas team won the NCAA title, and his teams qualified for the NCAA tournament eight times.
Brown earned an Olympic gold medal as a player in 1964 and became a three-time all-star during his five seasons in the ABA.
He was an assistant coach on the 2000 U.S. Olympic gold-medal team, and was head coach in 2004 when the U.S. won a bronze medal.
“You don’t win awards like this unless you have people around you that are pretty special,” Brown said in a Zoom conference call Thursday. “I’ve been blessed to play for the best coaches that ever coached. I’ve been blessed to coach the greatest players that ever played, and I’ve had unbelievable people sit next to me that allowed me to do what I love.”
Brown, 80, will now be sitting next to Penny Hardaway as an assistant coach for the University of Memphis. On Thursday, Brown conducted his Zoom interview from what appeared to be the basketball office at Memphis, wearing a Memphis sweatshirt.
“I’m so excited that Penny has given me this chance to work with young kids and hopefully have an impact on their lives on and off the court,” Brown said. “I’m a little nervous about it, but I’m excited about it.”
Brown took over a Sixers team that was 22-60 the year before his arrival in 1997. After going 31-51 his first season, Brown led the Sixers to five straight winning years and five consecutive playoff berths. He was 255-205 (.554) with the Sixers.
“I got to work with an unbelievable staff, and I had a phenomenal owner in Ed Snider,” Brown said when asked about his Sixers days. “I think Philadelphia loves basketball as much as any place I’ve ever been. The fans are incredible, and the players I coached are amazing.”
He will always look fondly at the 2001 season, the last time the Sixers appeared in the NBA Finals.
“We didn’t win a championship, but I think the 2001 team was one of the most popular teams that ever played there because of their work ethic and their culture, and we had a lot of terrific players,” Brown said. “We had one that may be as good as anybody that ever played the game in Allen Iverson, so I am a big Philly fan.”
He added that he will be returning to the area this weekend.
“My first recruiting visit is going to be in Philadelphia on Saturday, and I’m excited to get back,” Brown said.
Daly, a two-time NBA champion coach with the Detroit Pistons, also made his mark in Philadelphia earlier in his coaching career. He served as the head coach for six seasons at Penn, guiding the Quakers to four consecutive NCAA tournaments in his first four seasons. He later served as an assistant with the Sixers from 1978-81.
Here are the previous winners of the award:
2020: Del Harris
2019: Frank Layden
2018: Doug Moe
2017: Al Attles and Hubie Brown
2016: K.C. Jones and Jerry Sloan
2015: Dick Motta
2014: Bernie Bickerstaff
2013: Bill Fitch
2012: Pat Riley
2011: Lenny Wilkens
2010: Jack Ramsay and Tex Winter
2009: Tommy Heinsohn