This article was originally published in the Inquirer on May 23, 2001.
Larry Brown will be named the NBA's coach of the year today, according to a source in the 76ers organization, but before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals last night with the Milwaukee Bucks, Brown did not want to talk about clearing space off his mantel for the trophy.
"No, no, no. The only thing I'm concerned about was that my kids got to bed, my wife got here on time, the Phillies get a game-winner, and we win," he said before tip-off - and the Phillies' rainout.
This will be the first time in his 18-year NBA career that Brown will receive the honor. A news conference was expected to be held this afternoon.
Center Dikembe Mutombo was visibly pleased when he learned that Brown would win the award.
"It's a great accomplishment for Coach Brown," Mutombo said. "Myself, I have so much respect for him. . . . Everywhere he's been, any program, any institution, he has done an extremely great job. "
Mutombo raised his eyebrows when told that this would be Brown's first NBA coach-of-the-year honor.
"Sometimes patience is very important," he said. "He never talked that much about it. . . . He's a great coach, and I enjoy getting to be one of his students. "
Mutombo said Brown is different from many other coaches because he has continued to put in new plays throughout the season and playoffs, including "three or four" for the Bucks series.
"So if you don't have the brains enough to remember [the plays], then you're going to have trouble playing for him," Mutombo said.
Geiger in. You may have noticed Sixers reserve Matt Geiger out on the court last night.
Yesterday, Geiger, out for the previous six games with tendinitis in his right thigh, walked into the coach's office and told Brown he wanted to play.
Remember that after playing four minutes in the first game of the Toronto series, Geiger dressed but did not play for the next three games.
His status was unclear, until Sixers general manager Billy King announced before Game 5 that Geiger wouldn't be dressing, so his status wouldn't be a distraction.
"I'm proud that he would want to play," Brown said before last night's game, pointing out that with so many people banged up, Jumaine Jones had to play power forward when Tyrone Hill got into foul trouble against the Raptors.
Geiger went in for Hill with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter. When Hill returned for the second quarter, Geiger stayed on the court, replacing Mutombo.
When Geiger got an offensive rebound, the crowdapplauded. When he hit a jumper a couple of minutes later, some fans stood.
The seven-minute stretch was Geiger's longest of the playoffs, and helpful to the Sixers' cause. He ended up playing 12 minutes, scoring the one basket, and grabbing three rebounds.
"I told him I was really proud of him," Brown said after the game. "He said he was really sore at halftime, so I got him in real early, which made Tyrone [Hill] mad. If he can give us 12 or 15 minutes for a while, it's needed. "
Sixers president Pat Croce called down from his box during the game to check on Geiger. A security guard relayed the player's response to Croce.
"Being a former physical therapist, he was always like, 'you've got to listen to your body,' " Geiger said.
That's what he plans to continue to do.
"If I can go on it, I'll go on it," Geiger said. "I wish I could have played more productive minutes. Yesterday was the first day it started to feel like I was over the hump. "
Steaks stakes. Yes, even the politicians are involved.
Whenever playoff action heats up, politicians seem compelled to wager with each other, and the Bucks-Sixers series is no different.
Yesterday, U.S. Reps. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) and Tom Barrett (D., Wis.) placed "a friendly wager" on the series: Milwaukee bratwurst for the Fattah staff if the Sixers win the best-of-seven series, and Philly cheesesteaks for the Barrett staff if the Bucks win.
Let the trash talk begin.
"With Allen Iverson scoring as well as he has been in this last series, and dishing out those 16 assists, I fully expect to be eating some fine Milwaukee cuisine," Fattah said in a statement. "We have The Answer for the three-headed monster," the Bucks' Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson.
Responded Barrett: "Ray, 'Sam-I-Am' and the Big Dog are going to eat the league MVP for lunch, and we'll be eating Philly cheesesteaks for dinner. "
A force inside. Bucks forward Tim Thomas drove the baseline, soared to finish - and saw his shot redirected toward the scorer's table at midcourt.
Bucks coach George Karl even flinched a little as the ball skipped past him. That was the most dramatic of Mutombo's four blocked shots last night. But the Sixers center sealed off the middle all night. He had 18 rebounds. And he was a factor on the offensive end. Seven of the rebounds were at that end, and he finished with 15 points.
His first quarter was especially dominant. Mutombo had seven points and six rebounds.
Karl had said before the series that he didn't think Mutombo would be a factor against his club.
"They're a perimeter-shooting team," Brown said after last night's game. "I think in some cases [Karl's] probably saying you nullify a shot-blocker and rebounder. But we can get up on shooters because you know you have help behind. I thought in the first half, he controlled the game. He kept the ball alive about four or five times. He was sensational. I thought their big man was great as well. "
Ervin Johnson scored eight points on 2-of-6 shooting. But he had his usual stellar game on the boards, grabbing 15.
"He's a very good all-star center," Karl said of Mutombo. "I thought my center played as well as their center did. "
Media-friendly. The NBA yesterday released its all-interview team, as voted on by sportswriters and broadcasters who regularly cover the league. Not surprisingly, Iverson was not among the 88 players receiving votes.
The criteria that voters used to judge were accessibility and ability to provide "informative and interesting" quotes, according to the NBA.
Karl Malone earned his 12th career first-team selection, receiving the most votes (43). Also on the first team were Sacramento's Chris Webber (40 votes), Minnesota's Kevin Garnett (32), Milwaukee's Allen (30) and San Antonio's Avery Johnson (29).
Karl led the balloting for coaches, receiving 57 votes.
Mutombo made the second team, and Aaron McKie was the only other Sixer who received a vote, and he got one. Brown received three.
Lovelier the second time around. Scott Williams has three championship rings - from Chicago in 1991, '92 and '93 - but he might be having a better time reaching for the ring with Milwaukee now.
"It is more satisfying for me this time around, because I was young before," the 33-year-old Williams said. "I just thought this is kind of what you did. I didn't really appreciate how difficult it really is to accomplish something like an NBA championship. "
No respect? Karl said he was a bit miffed by some of the things Brown said after the Sixers traded for Mutombo.
"I understand [getting] Mutombo, and maybe they were looking to the West. That's [ticking] me off a little that they were looking by the Eastern Conference and saying, 'We can't beat Shaq without Mutombo. ' I thought they were disrespecting us. "