CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The beginning of the end for Larry Brown as Charlotte Bobcats coach might have been an interview he gave on the eve of training camp. Even by Brown standards, this was remarkable bluntness.
He said then that he "died" the day the team chose not to re-sign point guard Raymond Felton. He said his roster got worse as most of the Bobcats' Eastern Conference rivals improved.
Second-guessing the boss seldom enhances your job security. So when Brown's players stopped listening to him -- he acknowledged as much recently -- the end came suddenly.
Wednesday, after a morning practice, Brown met with Jordan in early afternoon.
Though the Bobcats' announcement suggests Brown left by mutual agreement with Jordan, several sources close to Brown say emphatically that the entire coach staff was fired by Jordan, whose only statement on the decision was in a press release.
"The team has clearly not lived up to either of our expectations," Jordan said in the release. "This is a difficult decision for both of us, but one that needed to be made."
Jordan quickly hired former Charlotte and New Orleans Hornets coach Paul Silas as interim coach. General manager Rod Higgins said Silas' status would be re-evaluated at the end of this season.
Jordan's view of Brown changed radically between October and December. During the preseason, Jordan told the Observer he wanted to sign Brown to a contract extension, and that hadn't happened only because Brown put off negotiations.
"I'd love to keep Larry as long as he (wants to be) here," Jordan told the Observer in October. "He's been very beneficial to what we're doing."
Jordan said that same day he expected the team not only to return to the playoffs but to win at least a round in the postseason. At 9-19, and having lost three of their past six games by 30 points or more, the Bobcats look nothing like a playoff team.
Higgins said on a conference call with Charlotte media Wednesday evening the coaching change should be viewed as the front office not giving up on the season.
"We wanted to try to salvage what we can of the season," he said, noting the Bobcats were 2 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Several sources in and around the Bobcats say Brown had no idea this was coming. Brown ran practice Wednesday as if he'd be here the rest of this season and the one more remaining on his contract, sources said. He'd been advocating various trades, including one that recently fell through involving co-captain Stephen Jackson.
Brown is a Hall-of-Famer and the only coach ever to win both an NBA (Detroit) and NCAA (Kansas) title. He ended his career with the Bobcats nine victories short of the most ever in professional basketball (Don Nelson's 1,335).
Brown did not return a message left on his cell phone. Sources say despite being 70, he very much wants to continue coaching.
In recent days, Brown became more blunt and negative in his comments about the team's performance. Always a stickler for precision, he often vented over the pattern of mistakes, such as when the Bobcats committed 29 turnovers in a loss to the Washington Wizards on Monday.
Typical of Brown's frustration was a road loss in early December in Philadelphia. That's the night he said his team looks "nothing like last season -- not even close."
Then, when told co-captain Gerald Wallace said the Bobcats have no identity, Brown replied, "If you want to establish an identity, try to play hard first."
Higgins was asked if Brown's increasingly critical assessments were a factor in the coaching change. Higgins said no players had complained to him about Brown's persona, then added:
"That's what coaches do. I'm sure some of it was frustration, and some of it was getting players fired up any way you can."
Brown recently questioned whether the players were listening. Asked if the players had tuned Brown out, Higgins replied, "Knowing Larry's personality, it's hard not to listen to Larry."
And yet the contrast between Brown and Silas is telling. As Higgins noted, both are old-school coaches known for holding players accountable.
But that's one of the few similarities.
Brown is a hyper-organized tactician and teacher. Silas' strengths are more his people skills -- knowing intuitively when a player needs a hug or a scolding, or when a team needs a day off or a joke in a timeout, to lighten the mood.
Nothing about the Bobcats recently suggests a light mood.