NBA Basketball Digest 

stunning development,

In a stunning development, Larry Brown actually appeared on the hour-long, Sunday night edition of Madison Square Garden's "SportsDesk."
Okay, so the current - or is it former? - Knicks coach made that appearance during a commercial for Steve Nash's "MVP Basketball" video. Was this a prelude to MSG's "SportsDesk," anchored Sunday night by Steve Cangialosi? In commercials, MSG bills "SportsDesk" as the place to be for local sports news.

Locally, the big story Sunday was about reports indicating Garden/Cablevision boss James Dolan and Knicks prez Isiah Thomas were going to kick Brown - who would be replaced by Zeke - out the door. This particular kick in the butt will be expensive.

It could cost Dolan as much $40 million. If this stuff goes down, Thomas and Dolan will be remembered as the two men who made the most expensive mistake in the history of New York sports.

Now, what better place to get all this Larry news late Sunday night then on MSG's "SportsDesk." After all, these dispatches come to viewers direct from what Al (Wiggie) Trautwig insists - night after night after night - is: "The world's most famous arena."

Ever since Dolan purchased the Garden, and everything that comes with it (including the MSG Network), Trautwig's words ring hollow. The Garden is now a barracks for overpaid losers, executives who are rewarded handsomely to fail, and all the suckers, er fans, who pay exorbitant prices to watch a poorly constructed, heartless Knicks team.

Also, through a series of bad business decisions leading to the loss of Yankees and Mets TV rights, MSG Network, once a model for regional sports networks, is now nothing more than Dolan's in-house propaganda/marketing arm.

Ironically, that's why this Brown story is right in MSG's wheelhouse. When all the Brown-made turmoil was percolating during the season, the Knicks' TV ratings on MSG were pretty robust for a team that quit on a nightly basis. Now, with Thomas authoring another bizarre chapter of Brown's soap opera, would MSG's "SportsDesk" dig into it?

Anyone watching MSG Sunday night knows the answer to that question. Cangialosi led "SportsDesk" with the Devils' elimination loss to Carolina. Then it was a recap of Sunday's A's-Yankees and Mets-Brewers games.

Next, more Devils "insight" from John Giannone and Chico Resch before a report on Miami taking Game 4 from the Nets.

While the story of Brown's imminent firing should have led the telecast, you would figure this was now the time - during the basketball segment - to air it, right? What came next was truly mind-boggling.

"SportsDesk" presented a Fran Healy "interview" with Don Mattingly. The subject: How Mattingly has helped Jason (The Giambalco) Giambi at the plate. But most of this scintillating one-on-one concerned a new bat Mattingly has created. This was nothing more than a free infomercial for Mattingly.

Maybe, just maybe, "SportsDesk" was saving the Brown story for the end of the show.

Not quite. Cangialosi's big finish was an extensive report on the Hofstra-Providence NCAA Divison I lacrosse playoff game. Oh yeah, the 'cast ended with a football Giants Mother's Day story.

So, in an hour-long sportscast on MSG, there was not one mention of Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas or James Dolan. Not one word about this Knicks story that appeared Sunday on back - and front - pages of newspapers. Man, not even a cover-your-butt sentence like: "Neither the Knicks, Brown, nor Brown's agent would comment on reports that ..."

MSG Network suits again offer more evidence why their "news" operation is a bad joke.

They had already revealed this fact in January, when "SportsDesk" failed to report, or even mention, initial reports of Anucha Browne Sanders' sexual harassment lawsuit against Thomas and MSG.

The only time that story got a glimmer of play on "SportsDesk" was after Thomas held a press conference in a controlled - no questions asked - environment.

The policy to devalue "SportsDesk" by stripping it of all credibility either comes via direct orders from Dolan or is a byproduct of Garden suits, including Thomas and (Silent) Steve Mills, trying to anticipate what will anger their boss and possibly get them fired.

If this all sounds familiar

If this all sounds familiar, it is. Here's what Larry Brown said before his buyout with the Pistons was announced compared to what his camp is saying now:

July 6, 2005: 'I just want to get well and coach the Pistons. I've been saying that for a long time, but nobody seems to believe me. I don't know what else I can say.'

July 14. 2005: 'I'm confident I'll be back, but you never know. Whatever happens will be for the best of the franchise, and that's the important thing.'

Yesterday: Brown's agent says: 'At this point and time Larry is the coach of the Knicks until we are told otherwise. He's ready, willing and able to be the coach of the Knicks. He wants to overcome the horrendous season they had and help turn the team around.'

Knicks have no plans to fire his Hall of Fame client.

This much is certain: Isiah Thomas contacted Larry Brown's agent yesterday and informed him the Knicks have no plans to fire his Hall of Fame client. What is uncertain is whether the team has left the door open for a buyout.
Joe Glass, Brown's longtime agent, revealed that the Knicks' president had called him in the late afternoon. It was the first time in over a week that the Knicks had been in contact with either Brown or his representative, and the first time since team sources told the Daily News that the Knicks are mulling buying out the final four years of Brown's contract.

"He informed me that the stories are not true," Glass said, "that Larry's the coach of the Knicks."

The language from both the Knicks and Glass is eerily similar to last season, when Brown and the Detroit Pistons were in the process of negotiating a buyout.

Team sources continue to indicate that Garden chairman James Dolan is leaning toward severing ties with Brown after one tumultuous season. In fact, regardless of what Thomas told Glass, ultimately the decision on whether to make a coaching change will be made by Dolan, who is also endorsing the idea of naming Thomas the coach.

The Knicks have not issued a public denial about the reports from sources. Those sources said part of Dolan's thinking is that Brown was too critical of the players last season. Although the Knicks previously have told Brown they would try to upgrade the roster, the concern in the organization is that they will not be able to make enough moves to satisfy Brown, and that they will have another season in which the coach publicly clashes with his players.

Brown's most infamous feud was with Stephon Marbury, one that began during the 2004 Olympics.

Yesterday, Marbury said he understands why the Knicks would be considering a coaching change. "Based on our record (23-59), that's normal for anybody to have that speculation," he told The Associated Press. Marbury also said he'd be fine with either Brown or Thomas. "I don't care if Larry Brown comes back. I wouldn't mind at all."

Glass admitted to being upset that the Knicks hadn't reached out to him since the sources told The News and other media outlets that Dolan is strongly considering buying out Brown's contact and replacing him with Thomas. The timing alone was a sensitive issue as Brown underwent a bladder operation Friday.

"Why wouldn't I be upset?" Glass said over the telephone. "Larry had an operation on Friday and all of a sudden I'm reading that he's not going to be the coach of the Knicks. Nobody from the Knicks has contacted us. Of course I'm upset."

In recent weeks, Brown has been unsuccessful in his attempts to have a meeting with Dolan. Thomas also has not been in contact with Brown.

Glass also refuted claims that Brown already is pursuing coaching jobs in Charlotte and Sacramento. According to one report, Brown's representatives have been in contact with the Bobcats.

"Unless Larry changed representation after 45 years, I don't know anything about that," Glass said. "I haven't had contact with anybody, and that includes the Knicks."

According to one source close to Brown, he is unlikely to coach anywhere next season if he does not coach the Knicks.

"At this point and time Larry is the coach of the Knicks until we are told otherwise," Glass added.

Brown was resting at his Greenwich, Conn., home yesterday and was unavailable for comment. His ongoing health problems are not expected to prevent him from coaching next season.

"He's ready, willing and able to be the coach of the Knicks," Glass said. "He wants to overcome the horrendous season they had and help turn the team around."

Brown completed the first season of a five-year, $50 million contract. Glass declined to comment on the possibility of a buyout, but from all indications, the divorce would be costly for the Knicks. People close to Brown say that if the Knicks are intent on firing him, they will have to pay him the approximately $40 million he is owed. Last season, Glass negotiated a $7 million buyout from the Pistons, even though the team owed Brown $18 million.

People familiar with Dolan's thinking claim that if he was committed to removing Brown from the sidelines, he would do whatever it takes at whatever the cost. Under Dolan's watch, the Knicks have paid off the contracts of Shandon Anderson, Don Chaney, Scott Layden and Lenny Wilkens.

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