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Old 07-25-2001, 10:13 PM   #1
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Arrow Sixers fans breathe sigh of relief

Because their head coach, Larry Brown, is returning and Pat Croce will remain within the organization, according to Sportsline:
Croce steps down as Sixers prez; Brown remains as coach

PHILADELPHIA -- Larry Brown just wasn't ready to walk away. Pat Croce didn't want to stay.

Brown, who won coach of the year honors while leading the Philadelphia 76ers into the NBA Finals, said Wednesday he is returning as the team's coach.

The 60-year-old Brown had been contemplating retirement since the finals.

"My only issue was I wanted to be in position where I can give my team all they have given me," Brown said. "After going through these last two years without a break, I just wasn't sure.

"Then having time with my family ... I just thought I was ready to go on. Coming back for rookie camp, being around the players is something I truly love."

Ed Snider, chairman of the Sixers, announced Brown's return at a news conference in which Croce stepped down as president.

Croce, who wanted to be chief executive officer of the company that owns the Sixers, will remain in the organization in an undefined role as consultant. Croce also remains a minority owner and board member.

"I want to grow, I have to grow," Croce said. "I like to continue to learn and tackle new challenges. I needed new responsibilities."

Brown first said he was contemplating retirement during the Finals. After the Sixers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games, Brown said he wanted to spend some time with his family before making a decision.

But Brown, who has four more years remaining on an existing contract, presided over last month's draft, and it didn't appear that he actually would leave.

"I couldn't have a better job," Brown said. "This is the only place I want to coach."

Brown didn't feel that way too long ago. A contentious relationship with star guard Allen Iverson forced Brown to consider walking away a few times during his time with the Sixers.

But with Croce's guidance, Brown and Iverson mended their relationship and had their finest seasons. While Brown won coach of the year honors for the first time in 18 NBA seasons, Iverson was the league's MVP.

Croce's departure means he no longer has the authority to sit Brown and Iverson in a room -- as he did in 1999 -- and convince them to hash out their differences.

"But I'm still Allen's friend and Larry's friend," Croce said.

Brown said Croce's decision to leave didn't affect him.

"He has allowed me and (general manager) Billy King to do our job," Brown said. "He's a phenomenal person to be around. I had one disagreement with Pat in five years and that lasted 30 seconds."

Brown, who finished his fourth season in Philadelphia, guided the Sixers to the playoffs three straight years after an eight-year absence. He was coach of the year three times in four seasons in the ABA before joining the NBA.

Brown last season led the Sixers to a franchise-best 10-0 start, a franchise-record 13 straight road victories and the top spot in the East.

He recorded his 1,000th professional victory on Feb. 16, and coached the East to a victory in the All-Star Game.

Brown missed three games during an 0-4 road trip in March to be treated for acid reflux and a hernia. In December, he took a couple days off from practice, saying he just needed a break -- from himself, from basketball and from his team.

Brown has posted winning records in 25 of his 29 seasons as a head coach on the professional and collegiate levels and won a national championship while coaching Kansas in 1988.

Last summer, Brown was an assistant coach on the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the Sydney Olympics.
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