Mike Brown and Mike Woodson Talk Shop

At the deadline on Thursday, the Spurs made a trade for Stephen Jackson that also ended the Richard Jefferson era. I started writing and seriously covering what the Spurs were doing right around the original RJ-to-San-Antonio trade in the summer of 2009. After an seemingly endless series of varying horrible and decent pieces, I finally "broke through" with some quality pieces that winter. The following piece - written in January 2010, to an audience consisting solely of Aaron and myself - is probably my favorite. It tells of the story of Richard Jefferson's off-season courting by Mike Brown (who was coaching LeBron's Cavs at the time) and his doppelganger coach of the Hawks, Mike Woodson.

I was reading SLAM tonight, and I came across the following passage, in which Hawks coach Mike Woodson addresses his team before an important Mavs road game:

“...I don’t give a shit about the offense; you guys can score more than enough points to win games. The offense isn’t the problem. But you have to get stops on defense, and if you’ll listen to what we’re telling you, I promise you’ll get stops. The shit works, okay? The shit works, but you guys just have to have the pride and the heart to buy into it and do what we’re asking you to do every time down the court.”

Reading this reminded me of a little-known incident a few years back. Almost immediately after the 2009 Finals, Milwaukee small forward Richard Jefferson was being scouted for a possible trade to either the Cavs or the Hawks. Jefferson therefore had to make two private appointments with the head coaches of those teams, Mike Brown and Mike Woodson.

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Concerns for the complex and heavy schedules of all three men led Jefferson to suggest instead that he meet with both coaches simultaneously. Jefferson supposed that they could meet up in a practice facility for his demonstration, after which they would all get some dinner and discuss where he could fit into their respective teams. This suggestion was well-received by both Woodson and Brown, and so the only remaining unknown was the location. Jefferson said it would be a little questionable to meet up in a Bucks' facility for a demonstration that could very well send him packing, so he suggested they all meet instead in San Antonio at the Spurs' practice facility. After all, Brown had served under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich there, and Woodson had served under the legendary Larry Brown, Popovich's mentor. This seemed reasonable enough for all parties, and it was settled. The plane tickets were bought.

Now, at this time I was working as a mop-boy at the Spurs' practice facility. After all, I was 16, and I was living in one of the plusher suburbs in San Antonio. It was the perfect summer job. I even met David Robinson once in the gym as he showed his church group how important practice is. The Admiral liked me instantly because virtue and skill stand out like a strobe light to him, and I was really effective and methodical with a mop at that time.

I was also a basketball fanatic and an amateur sportswriter. In the dog-days of 2009, before iPhones and Androids had hit the market, I kept a primitive cassette tape recorder on my person wherever I went. This tape recorder caused both amusement and annoyance in the Spurs players, and I would often try (with very limited success) to invite myself to private player meetings. So when I heard that Woodson and Jefferson and Brown were coming to my gym, and that I was supposed to mop the whole gym before they arrived, I became restless with possibility. I quickly created a mopping schedule that would guarantee me close proximity for the duration of their visit, and even planned to get into their graces well enough that I could eat with one of them afterwards.

It's important to note here that Coach Brown and Coach Woodson are very similar in appearance. They are both the same brand of hefty, of the same height, somewhat muscular, and bald. They have extremely similar tastes in clothing. Mike Woodson's skin has a somewhat lighter shade of brown, and Mike Brown has glasses with very thick rims. Mike Woodson has a black goatee. Mike Brown has a different black goatee. If Mike Brown lost his glasses and they were standing together, I would have legitimate trouble handing the glasses to the right one, even if I'd seen from whom it had dropped.

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