The abrupt departure Wednesday of Larry Brown as coach of the Bobcats had been brewing since last summer, according to multiple league sources. Brown was unhappy with the cost-cutting trade that packaged center Tyson Chandler to Dallas for the non-guaranteed contract of Erick Dampier, who was then waived by Charlotte.
Another source of contention was the departure of point guard Raymond Felton. Though Brown wasn't a big fan, he didn't want to see Felton leave as a free agent unless he was replaced by a full-time starter. But the Bobcats have been unable to afford replacements at either position. In the meantime Felton has put up All-Star numbers for the surprising Knicks, while Chandler has galvanized the Mavericks' defense to raise their championship hopes.
Since buying majority control of the Bobcats last year, owner Michael Jordan has been attempting to lessen the payroll in anticipation of a new collective bargaining agreement that promises a better opportunity for a small-market franchise like Charlotte to compete against the NBA's richer teams. The 9-19 Bobcats rank 20th in NBA attendance at 15,592 per game, which is almost 20 percent under capacity.
But Brown has never been patient when it comes to assembling a winning roster. Friends of Brown expect him to seek another NBA job in future, though a potential lockout could keep him out of the league beyond next fall.
The hiring of Paul Silas as replacement for Brown makes sense in the short term, as Silas is not only a credible replacement based on his success and local popularity as coach of the Charlotte Hornets prior to their 2002 departure to New Orleans. Silas is unlikely to contest personnel moves by the front office as Brown did.
A league source said that Brown walked away with $8 million severance from Charlotte. Combined with guaranteed monies he received after leaving the Pistons, Knicks and other teams, Brown has been paid well over $25 million for
The departure of Brown could open the door for the Bobcats to dump more salary in advance of the next CBA. Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson all have multiple years on their contracts, which could make them difficult to move in this market. One team known to be looking for frontcourt help is the Orlando Magic, but would they be willing to surrender Jason Richardson's expiring deal in a package for power forward Diaw and center DeSagana Diop?