When Phil Jackson and Larry Brown walk onto the Staples Center floor tonight, it will be the first time these two coaches have met since June 16, 2004. That was Game 5 of the NBA Finals and the Detroit Pistons, the team Brown coached, won 100-87, clinching the title.
Approximately 17 months have elapsed since that day and these two men have gone through messy basketball divorces with the teams they were coaching that night. Phil, after a yearlong hiatus and a tell-all book, reconciled with his former team and returned to the Shaq-less Lakers. Larry was hired by the Knicks, his "dream job," after leading the Pistons to the NBA Finals two years in a row.
Both men are a long way from where they were that night in June 2004. Last year was the first time in 29 years that both New York and LA missed the playoffs and that might not change this year. The Lakers and Knicks both lack the talent required to be title contenders. Phil and Larry must utilize their leadership and communication skills to help their respective teams sneak into the playoffs. Their Hall of Fame coaching abilities will be required to reestablish the discipline, mental toughness and unselfishness required to develop an elite team.
No one doubts that the Lakers and Knicks will eventually have success. However, this will be a tricky year for both. There are many questions that must be resolved. Let's take a closer look at each team and we get a clearer picture of what lies ahead for these high-profile franchises this year.