Larry's no stooge

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is not the least bit surprised to see the New York Knicks on a six-game winning streak.

After all, the Knicks are coached by Larry. No need for the Raptors coach to mention the last name of one of the men he respects most in basketball when speaking about the NBA's latest 1,000-game winner, Larry Brown.

The hottest team in the NBA, which gave the 65-year-old Brown his 1,000th career win Friday night with a 105-94 triumph over the lowly Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden, will try to improve to 7-0 in 2006 today when Mitchell's ex-coach brings the Knicks to the Air Canada Centre.

"The thing is, how long they were going to keep fighting (Brown) doing what he wanted them to do," said Mitchell, who regularly makes Larry references in chats with reporters.

"He wasn't going to give in. Normally, it takes a while for the players to understand he's not going to give in. Some teams it takes longer than others."

Mitchell, who went to the Eastern Conference final twice as a Indiana Pacers player under Brown in the mid-1990s, sees a little bit of Brown in himself.

And no, he's not talking about the fact both are coaching teams well below .500.

"In some respects," Mitchell said. "I believe what I believe. Not to say Larry won't make adjustments. I'm not saying that.

"But you have to have a core of beliefs of how you believe the game should be played and how you should treat your players. You have to stick to it."

The fourth coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 wins, Brown has seen his team climb to 13-21 for the season, just ahead of the 12-24 Raptors in the race for second-last in the Atlantic Division. A battle of wills with Stephon Marbury earlier in the season seems to have subsided and the point guard has been a key force in the current streak.

Ex-Raptor Antonio Davis is a starting forward and big Eddy Curry, whom Brown said was in "horrible shape" just a few weeks ago, also is starting and playing well.

Mitchell, without a doubt, believes Brown is a big reason for the Knicks' success. Mitchell said Brown, in his 23rd NBA season, is the most demanding coach he had.

"Without a doubt," Mitchell said. "He's tough, man. You have to be thick-skinned to play for coach. He's going to make you a better basketball player.

"He made me do every little thing and concentrate and made me realize every little thing you do on the court is important. You have to do it right, and he was unyielding about that."

It all comes from Brown's my-way-or-the-highway style.

"He's not going to deviate from what he thinks is right," Mitchell said.

"It takes a while for teams to figure it out. Larry will quit before he changes his philosophies. He has the power to do that."


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