Knicks Fire Brown, Name Thomas New Coach

The New York Knicks put Larry Brown out of his coaching misery Thursday, ending weeks of uncertainty by firing the Hall of Fame coach with four years and a reported $40 million left on his contract. President and general manager Isiah Thomas will replace Brown as coach.

In Brown's one season in New York, the Knicks stumbled to a 23-59 record -- second worst in the NBA and matching the most losses in club history -- while Brown publicly feuded with Stephon Marbury and other players.

But the postseason may have been even more difficult for Brown.

His coaching status had been in limbo since reports surfaced in May that owner James Dolan was looking to buy out Brown's contract. It was at about that time that Brown called himself a "dead man walking" because of the uncertainty.

Brown's agent, Joe Glass, had said he wouldn't accept a buyout, so the Knicks took their time with the decision. That created an awkward situation in which Brown was running the Knicks' workouts of draft prospects without knowing what role he had within the organization. The draft is next Wednesday.

With no financial settlement reached, has learned that a clause in Brown's contract designates NBA commissioner David Stern as the arbitrator of any financial dispute between the sides, meaning the final chapter of this drama has yet to play out.

"No one in our organization is happy with last season and we all accept responsibility for our performance," Thomas said in a statement released by the Knicks. "This has been a difficult time for the entire organization and our fans.

"Larry Brown is a great coach, but for various reasons, bringing him to the Knicks did not turn out the way we had hoped and we wish him the best in the future."

It's the second straight ugly ending for Brown, who was bought out by the Pistons last season despite leading Detroit to the NBA finals, winning one title, in both of his seasons there.

The Knicks then gave the Brooklyn native what he called his "dream job" with hopes that he could return his hometown team to the playoffs. But despite a league-high payroll of more than $120 million, the result was perhaps the most embarrassing season in franchise history.

Brown, who missed three games in April because of illness, had only one worse season as a coach, when he went 21-61 with the San Antonio Spurs in 1988-89.

The bickering with Marbury -- a favorite of Thomas and Dolan -- just added to the chaos. Brown and Marbury clashed when Brown coached the U.S. team in the 2004 Olympics, and the relationship was closely watched from the moment Brown arrived in New York.

Their next public feud, played out almost entirely in the media, began in March.

Marbury vowed to shoot more freely next season, because playing Brown's team-oriented offense wasn't leading to enough wins. Brown fired back that Marbury already had enough freedom and should do what was best for the team, and the back-and-forth continued for four days before Brown pulled Marbury aside to settle it.

Other players said they were confused about their roles with the team, as Brown used more than 40 different starting lineups, easily the most in the league. Thomas acquired Steve Francis and Jalen Rose during the season, but neither made much impact.

The use of Francis was particularly questionable, because it was expected that he would start alongside Marbury in the backcourt. Instead, he frequently came off the bench while Brown tried to decide if he was better suited to being the point guard or shooting guard.

Still, Thomas said after the season ended that Brown would return. However, Brown had acknowledged that he didn't know what Dolan thought of his performance -- and it turns out the owner wasn't happy.

Neither Brown nor Glass returned phone messages left Thursday. Marbury also did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone.

Thomas joined the Knicks as president and GM in December 2003. He was coach of the Indiana Pacers for three seasons through 2002-03, compiling a 131-115 record and leading them to the playoffs in each season before he was fired when Larry Bird took control of the basketball decisions.

Thomas has been criticized for his performance since joining the Knicks, who haven't made the postseason since 2004 and haven't won a playoff game since 2001 -- even as the payroll increased. The Knicks don't even have what would have been the No. 2 pick in the draft because Thomas included it in the trade with Chicago for center Eddy Curry.

Thomas becomes the Knicks' fifth coach in the last five years. Jeff Van Gundy left early in the 2001-02 season and has been followed by Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens and Herb Williams before Brown.

Brown coached the Pistons to the NBA title in the 2003-04 season. He missed 17 games the following year with the Pistons because of hip replacement surgery. That led to a bladder problem that required surgery.

"Larry has had a long and storied career. We hired him last summer with the expectation that he would be with the Knicks for a long time," Dolan said. "Sometimes decisions work and sometimes they don't."

Brown is 1,010-800 in 23 seasons as an NBA head coach, making previous stops in Denver, New Jersey, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana, Philadelphia and Detroit. He also coached four seasons in the ABA and won a national championship with Kansas in 1988.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.