WILMINGTON When Charlotte Bobcats forward Jermareo Davidson skipped a weight-lifting session recently, he expected consequences.
The surprise was who invoked that discipline: Not the gray-haired coach who took over the team, but rather the guys to Davidson's left and right in the locker room.
“Me and Jason (Richardson) made him run. We said, ‘Give us some sprints!''' Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton recalled. “It's good they'll let us deal with it that way – in the locker room. They respect us as leaders to do that.”
A day into Brown's first camp as Bobcats coach, the culture change was evident. For all his teacher/scolder/nag reputation, Brown likes delegating authority to players and assistant coaches.
Brown doesn't plan to fine players this season when they get out of line. He's trusting three veterans – Felton, Richardson and Gerald Wallace – to police the younger guys and each other.
The idea: If you empower people – give them some say in how things work – they're accountable to each other, so things run more smoothly.
That contrasts dramatically from how Brown's predecessor, Sam Vincent, ran things in his single season on the job. Players grumbled privately much of last season that Vincent was simultaneously insistent and fickle in how he ran the team.
After he was fired last April, team employees described a top-down management style where assistant coaches couldn't address Vincent directly during games, but instead had to relay suggestions through then-lead assistant Lee Rose.
While there's no doubt Brown is in charge, he encourages all kinds of input from those he supervises.
Take, for instance, the team meeting Monday night in Wilmington: Managing partner Michael Jordan wanted a stricter dress code this season. The players wanted some flexibility within the dress code the NBA established.
Brown chuckled Tuesday, recalling the “negotiations” that ensued. The players won the option to wear dressy jeans with blazers on the road on the condition they police themselves as to what looks professional.
“I learned from coach (Dean) Smith, you don't always make hard-and-fast rules, you make suggestions,” Brown said.
“The great teams I've been with all had leadership. The guys got along, and if I got a little crazy, they let me know it.”
That inclusiveness stretches to Brown's coaching staff. Some of Vincent's assistants felt stilted, as Vincent asserted his authority over everything. Brown's assistants have authority to stop practice almost any time to fix a problem.
“He wants all of our input, wants to make sure if we see something on the court, (they correct it.) And that's a little bit different'' from last season, said assistant Phil Ford, a carryover from Vincent's staff.
Brown has insecurities, but that hasn't stopped him from hiring strong voices on the bench: Head coaches Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs), John Calipari (Memphis) and Bill Self (Kansas) each did a stint as a Brown assistant.
This is Dave Hanners' fourth NBA stop as a Brown assistant. Over the summer, Brown assigned Hanners to research every conceivable baseline in-bounds play to come up with the best four or five options for the Bobcats.
“He works us hard – that's hours and hours of watching and editing tape – but he knows it will make me a better coach,'' Hanners said.
“Then, when he puts me on that court to teach something, he has total faith in me.''
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