WILMINGTON, N.C. -- A friend of mine who covers the Carolina Panthers wants to trade jobs for a day, just to experience interviewing Larry Brown.
Sorry, Darin, no trades allowed.
Covering a guy as frank and glib as Brown is a reporter's delight. Every so often, he says something so blunt it makes your eyes wide; like the time Brown told us he wished Emeka Okafor cared as much about basketball as Pilates.
But I'd think it's not quite so delightful if you're the target of Brown's critiques. For instance, how did reserve center Gana Diop take it when Brown said publicly, at the end of last season, that Diop had to improve his conditioning because "quite frankly, he's untradeable?"
"It was kind of like telling a child, 'You've got to do well in school!' But he kept it real. He said, 'You've got to get in better shape if you expect to play on this team."' Diop said.
"He made his point. I worked really hard this summer to make sure I came to camp in great shape."
Brown may be harsh at times he loves that expression, "it's coaching, not criticism" but a player never has to guess where he stands. That's a marked difference from Brown's predecessor, Sam Vincent, who lasted a single season as Bobcats coach.
Vincent was constantly changing his mind. One day he'd tell Raymond Felton he'd be exclusively a point guard, the next day Felton would play 20 minutes at shooting guard.
One of the players from Vincent's season here tells a story about asking Vincent why he wasn't playing. Vincent's reply: "I don't know," as if Vincent didn't control who played and who didn't.
If a player asked Brown why he wasn't playing, it would start a 30-minute conversation. Brown would lay out every plus and minus in the player's game, and tell the guy precisely what it would take to earn minutes.
You might not like what you heard, but you'd understand your place.
"He's a tough coach, but he's a great person," Diop said. "When you don't play, of course you get frustrated. But at the end of the day, he always kept it real with me. If you say, 'If you do this, then you'll play,' I can respect that.
"And after practice, he'd stay late and work with me. A lot of coaches in that situation wouldn't care. He respects the game so much that he'll help anybody get better."
That last point is essential to Brown's approach. I asked several other players Friday what it's like to experience Brown's critiques. Each one said roughly the same thing: It works because no one doubts how much Brown cares.
Stephen Jackson made that point as well as anyone:
"(His frankness) is what I love about him. I'd much rather have a coach be honest with me than blow smoke. And we all know he cares about you, not just on the court, but as a person. Very seldom do you get that."