After finishing my 20 Greatest Denver Nuggets players of all time, I decided I should do the greatest coaches in the franchises history as well. In doing my research it became obvious to me that there were only 3 names that deserved to be a list of the greatest coaches in Nuggets History. I begin with my pick for the third greatest coach in Nuggets history by giving you……Larry Brown.
Larry Brown coached the Nuggets in their last 2 seasons in the ABA and their first 3 seasons after joining the NBA in 1976. He coached a total of 5 seasons with the Nuggets which is a much shorter tenure than the other 2 coaches I have on this list but he was able to win 251 out of his 385 games as coach of the Nuggets. He holds the highest winning percentage for a coach in Nuggets history at .652 and took the Nuggets to their one and only appearance in the finals taking them to the last ever played ABA finals against the Julius Erving led New York Nets in 1975. He was 21-24 in his 4 playoff appearances but was able to turn the Nuggets franchise into one that the NBA definitely wanted to bring to the party when the leagues merged in 1975.
The Nuggets job was only Brown’s second head coaching opportunity and was the second longest he stayed at a single job in his career. He began as an assistant coach with his alma mater North Carolina University from 1965-1967 as a graduate assistant. He then went on the have a mostly non-descript playing career for the Virginia Squires and Denver Rockets of the ABA before taking the Head Coaching job with the Carolina Cougars of the ABA in 1972. He spent 2 years in Carolina and then was offered the Nuggets job in the summer of 1974 and accepted the challenge. After his 5 year stint on the Nuggets bench, Brown became something of a “Hired Gun” or coaching Vagabond, moving from job to job without staying for a great length of time. He would coach UCLA for 3 seasons after leaving Denver, moved back to the NBA with the New Jersey Nets from 1981-1983, move back to the College ranks with the Kansas Jayhawks for 6 seasons….and, well you get the picture. All-in-all Brown has coached either in the college or professional ranks for almost every season in the last 42 years and never stayed at any one job longer than 6 seasons.
In 31 professional seasons Brown would compile a 1,327-1,011 record for 9 different teams, make the playoffs in 22 of those seasons and finally win an NBA Championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. He also won the NCAA Title in 1988 while at Kansas and is one of only 2 coaches in history with an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship and a US Gold Medal on his resume’. He still coaches to this day as he has returned to the college ranks once again and is resurrecting the Southern Methodist University Basketball Program in Dallas, Texas. Larry has had a long standing friendship with another former Nuggets Head Coach, the legendary Doug Moe who he went to North Carolina University with and they have been friends since the mid-1960’s. Brown gave Moe his first coaching job as an assistant with the Carolina Cougars and then moved to Denver with Brown when he took over the Nuggets. Brown has been a fixture in all of basketball for over 45 years and has left an indelible mark on the game that can’t be denied.
So there you have him, my third greatest Nuggets Coach of all-time…….Lawrence Harvey “Larry” Brown!