Special to Page 2
To appreciate this column, you're going to have to first acknowledge you've been misled about what's really been transpiring between the Detroit Pistons and Larry Brown.
You think this sorry soap opera is another tale about Brown's wanderlust and double-dealing. Maybe you think it's a riff about his ailing body.
Larry's history has played a role in this mess. But to understand how a team with back-to-back Finals appearances is likely to be playing next season for its third coach in four years, the truly enlightening factor is the Pistons' history.
Pistons owner Bill Davidson, former Pistons president and current Palace of Auburn Hills president Tom Wilson, Pistons spokesman Matt Dobek and Pistons president Joe Dumars have so many media members (not all of them, but enough) in their hip pockets that I can't really blame you for being confused.
You've read the stories they've wanted you to read.
Well, today I'm going to share the other side of those stories, the side that Davidson, Wilson, Dobek and Dumars don't want you to read.
Larry Brown didn't ask me to share it. In fact, when I reached Brown Wednesday afternoon, he wouldn't discuss anything with me, on or off the record. Heck, the story I'm about to share is one Larry probably knows little about. He might even disagree with it.
Davidson and his right-hand man, Wilson, might be the most hypocritical, back-stabbing executives in all of sports. They could tutor Al Davis.
Brown isn't the first (or last) Pistons employee Davidson and Wilson have tossed under the bus once they've squeezed what they've wanted from him. Ask Isiah Thomas. Or Chuck Daly. Or Don Chaney. Or Rick Carlisle. Or Doug Collins. Or Jack McCloskey.
You think it's unethical or disloyal for Brown's agent to explore a management position in Cleveland while the Pistons are in the playoffs? You think Bill Davidson was justifiably offended?
Well, then, do you think it was unethical or disloyal for the Pistons to sew up a deal with Brown to replace Carlisle while the Pistons were wrapping up the 2003 regular season and playoffs?
Do some homework. Find out how Chuck Daly felt when Mr. D(avidson) hired Ron Rothstein as a radio color commentator during Daly's last season. Daly, who delivered two championships to Detroit, spent his final year on the Pistons' bench with his successor (Rothstein) looking over his shoulder and second-guessing him over the airwaves.
Oh, yeah, Mr. D and Wilson are all class. They demand loyalty and give none.
For weeks, we've heard constant reports about how Mr. D was "put off" that Brown flirted with Cleveland and spoke glowingly of his hometown Knicks. People reported these stories like they were some sort of crime against humanity.
If it was a crime, what kind of felony is it for an organization to make a habit of picking a coaching successor long before the end of the season when the coach in place hasn't yet been dismissed? The latest: Flip Saunders' name began to circulate among Pistons media puppets in February.
Around that same time, Wilson and Dobek began their assault on Brown's shaky reputation, trashing Brown to members of the media who couldn't wait to show how tough they are by beating up on a short-time employee.
A veteran Pistons reporter told me that when Wilson was president of the Pistons, Chaney and Collins suffered through similar assaults just before they were let go by sweet Mr. D. It was during this time that Detroit reporters tagged Wilson with the nickname "Teflon Tom" for his ability to avoid blame whenever the Pistons had to scrap one of his failed plans.
How did Teflon Tom become Mr. D's right-hand man? He oversaw the end of Mr. D's relationship with the greatest Piston of all time, Isiah "Zeke" Thomas.
Thomas was supposed to be a Piston for life. Late in Isiah's final season, the Pistons even held a Piston-for-life press conference for the man most responsible for Detroit's first two championships and the construction of The Palace. Isiah was supposed to get the kind of deal Magic Johnson has with the Lakers -- a piece of the organization, a fancy title and a fat check.
But guess who just happened to run into public-relations problems just before the deal was complete? And guess who benefited?
Zeke and Teflon Tom.
Yep, nasty rumors about Isiah, gambling and unsavory characters, as well as a premature leak of the news that Isiah was to be named president of the Pistons, "offended" Mr. D and ended their fairy-tale, father-son relationship.
Isiah was tossed out of the Pistons family, and Teflon Tom became president of the Pistons and The Palace. His official reign over the franchise ended when Dumars became the club's top executive. Wilson now operates from the shadows, but he and his flunkies are still highly effective.
Just ask Larry Brown.
Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.