Larry Brown
Larry Brown (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown, who has been inactive in the last two years, will coach FIAT Auxilium Torino  in Italy next season, as reported by Italian website Sportando. After several rumors in the last few weeks, Brown is expected to sign a 1+1 deal with the Italian side, marking his first experience as a head coach overseas. This move represents, easily, one of the biggest stories of the summer in the European market. The first reports about Larry Brown and Torino started in May, but initially, the deal looked almost impossible. Torino reportedly offered Brown a senior assistant position, to give his knowledge and help to young head coach Paolo Galbiati, who started this season as an assistant and then took the head coach position. But Brown, of course, was more interested in the head coach position. The talks continued for weeks, while Torino was also looking at other candidates in Italy, and in the last few days, a deal was reached between the two sides, making what it originally looked like a dream, reality.

But despite the surprise, this wasn’t the first time that Larry Brown was linked to European basketball, especially in Italy. In the summer of 2016, in fact, Larry Brown was close to getting a job with Pallacanestro Cantù, as he revealed in an interview. In January 2017, Brown admitted that he would have loved to coach a Euroleague team and that he had some contacts with Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv. His agents worked hard on this European opportunity, mainly because Brown has still a lot of will to coach, despite his age (he’ll be 78 in September).

With Torino, Brown will also have the chance to coach in a European competition. The team, in fact, will play in Eurocup, not the same level of Euroleague but still is a pretty good competition for European standards. But the most important challenge for Larry Brown is to bring back stability and serenity to the team. Torino has lived a very troubled season with three different coaches. Everything looked good in the first part of the season, with Luca Banchi getting results both in Italy and Eurocup. Torino finished the first round of the Italian league at the fifth place, getting the qualification to the Final Eight of Italian Cup and to the top 16 of Eurocup. But in January everything started to fall. After a win against Varese, Banchi resigned as head coach of the team due to incomprehension with the ownership. Many reports out of Italy stated that Banchi and the son of the owner, Francesco Forni, had a clash after the game against Varese and the coach decided to not continue his experience with the team. To replace Banchi, FIAT Torino hired veteran coach Carlo Recalcati but his tenure with the team lasted less than a month. In February Recalcati was fired and his place was taken by assistant head coach Paolo Galbiati. The team reacted well to the arrival of Galbiati, winning the Italian Cup in Florence against Leonessa Brescia. But after the trophy, the team started to fall again. Torino lost 11 straight games, dropped out of the playoff picture and finished his season in a very disappointing way.

The hiring of Larry Brown will definitely bring more attention to Italian basketball. His curriculum speaks for itself: Larry Brown is the only coach to have won both NCAA title, in 1988 with Kansas, an NBA title, in 2004 with the Pistons, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, won the Coach of The Year award in 2001 when he was coaching the Sixers. Aside from his catastrophic experience with the New York Knicks, he has led every single team he coached to a playoff experience. Brown has also been an innovator in the league, he was one of the first coaches who started to play with four guards/wings around one big man, and he pushed superstars like Allen Iverson to play the best basketball of their careers.

Despite all these accomplishments, though, doubts remain about his potential success in this European experience. Larry Brown is now 77 years old, he has been inactive in the last two years and his final coaching experience with SMU wasn’t exactly one for the ages, both from a coaching point of view and from an academic one. Brown, in fact, received a sanction from the NCAA and his team was banned from 2016 postseason. Brown also received sanctions from the NCAA when he coached Kansas and UCLA. His only experience with the overseas basketball, as head coach of Team USA at 2004 Olympic Games, was a total disaster. During the qualification round, USA lost heavily against Puerto Rico and then lost a close game against Lithuania, finishing only at the fourth place in a group composed by Lithuania, Puerto Rico, Greece, Australia, and Angola. After winning in the quarter-finals against Spain, the NT coached by Larry Brown was beaten by Argentina in the semi-finals and ended up with the bronze medal after beating Lithuania in the game for the third place. That version of the USA was probably one of the worst ever seen in an International contest, lacking any kind of perimeter solution or defensive awareness against their opponents. In addition, many of Larry Brown comments during the last few years have created controversies, leaving several league executives and tv analysts doubtful about his comprehension of modern basketball.

Larry Brown will have to deal also with a tough ownership. Forni’s family has shown signs of maybe too much ambition during the last few years, with Antonio, the president, and Francesco, his son, being way too involved with the decision making and stepping into coaches’ decision without a real knowledge of the game. An Italian league executive, who chose to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Def Pen Hoops that Brown will have his difficulties in dealing with such a unique kind of ownership:

Francesco Forni is a guy who wants to run a team without a real knowledge of how basketball works. It’d be very curious to see such a basketball legend like Larry Brown dealing with an executive like Francesco. Torino is very ambitious as a team but the Forni’s family has made several mistakes in dealing with coaches and agents during the years

It’ll certainly be entertaining to watch Fiat Torino playing this season and if you’re interested in seeing a basketball legend sideline, you should give a look. Larry Brown is back in business but how his return will impact the Italian and European basketball remains to be seen.

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