Larry Brown is putting potential draft picks through workouts. The general manager is chatting with Brown regularly to discuss shaping the roster for next season.
Everyone is acting as if Brown will be back for a third season with the Charlotte Bobcats. The Hall of Fame coach just won’t say it definitively and end all the speculation.
Three days after declining to speak to reporters, Brown chose his words carefully after Monday’s pre-draft workout.
Has he decided on whether he’s returning?
"I’m here coaching,” Brown replied. "Obviously, I’m under contract and doing my job.”
So it’s settled that he’s coming back?
"I’m here. If I wasn’t here, it’d be another thing,” answered Brown.
Brown then backed away from the circle of reporters and ended the interview. It was another bizarre twist in a two-month stretch of uncertainty surrounding the Michael Jordan-owned Bobcats and the well-traveled Brown, in his 13th pro or college head coaching job.
Brown, who turns 70 in September, said after the Bobcats were swept by Orlando in the first round of the playoffs that he missed being away from his wife and teenage children in suburban Philadelphia and hadn’t decided whether he’d be back despite having two years left on his contract.
He insisted, though, that he wouldn’t coach for anybody other than Jordan. While that hasn’t stopped rampant speculation of Brown bolting for another job, Bobcats GM Rod Higgins is working under the assumption that Brown will be on Charlotte’s bench this fall – even if Brown hasn’t made his plans clear to management.
"If you watched the watched the workouts today and you watched the guy that was running the workouts, it was the coach that we’ve had the last two years,” Higgins said. "The situation is kind of status quo.”
"Larry has been here and I’ve talked to Larry over the last three weeks practically every day in terms of how we improve our roster, what-if scenarios if we get into the draft, how we venture going forward and improving our roster,” Higgins said. "Those are the kind of conversations we’ve been having.”
The Bobcats are in a difficult spot with several key decisions that must be made in the next month – with Brown expected to have significant input.
Higgins called point guard Raymond Felton’s impending free agency a "delicate subject.” Felton, the No. 5 pick in the 2005 draft, improved this season before struggling in the playoffs. Felton turned down a long-term deal last summer, and Charlotte is close to the luxury tax, a figure Jordan has said the Bobcats won’t go over.
"We’ve always maintained an interest in Raymond and we’ve always expressed how much we like Raymond,” Higgins said. "But it’s a different landscape than it was probably in July.”
Higgins was more definitive with impending restricted free agent Tyrus Thomas, saying they’re leaning toward making him a one-year qualifying offer of more than $6 million.
"Tyrus, when we traded for him, he’s a guy that we envisioned going long-term with,” Higgins said.
Higgins has also had "fruitful conversations” with teams looking to unload second-round picks, which is why Charlotte is working our prospects despite not having a pick in the June 24 draft.
It’s also why Brown has been working despite failing to fully commit to next season.
"You can’t really get caught up in that part,” Higgins said of Brown’s indecision. "I think you have to continue to communicate with each other. And there hasn’t been anything that has been different. … I can’t afford to read a whole lot into it.”