MANILA, Philippines - Denver Nuggets assistant coach and former Boston Celtics guard Dee Brown said the other day he'd jump on the first plane to Manila if there's an offer to conduct basketball clinics because the Philippines is largely known as a hoops haven with a vast pool of untapped talent.
Brown, 46, played for Boston, Toronto and Orlando in 12 NBA seasons up to 2002 then turned to coaching in the WNBA and NBA D-League before becoming an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons under Lawrence Frank in 2011-13 and the Sacramento Kings under Michael Malone in 2013-15. In the offseason, Malone was hired by the Nuggets as head coach and he brought along Brown to join the staff.
"I've heard so much about the Philippines' love and passion for the game," said Brown in a telephone interview from Denver. "I know that Andray Blatche plays on the Philippine national team and Jordan Clarkson is joining soon. I've done All-Asia camps for Nike in China where kids from different countries participate and Filipinos are almost always ahead of the other boys from China, Japan and Chinese-Taipei. Over the last four years, I think I've taken about 13 trips to Asia, mostly in China, to do clinics for Nike. I've always wanted to visit Manila but there's never been an opportunity."
This year, Brown was with Kobe Bryant, Paul George, LeBron James and Anthony Davis anchoring a documentary series for TV on the Nike Rise tour in China. "I've been trying to get to Manila but so far, no luck," he said. "I'd be interested to do basketball clinics for players of all levels and coaches. To make an impact, I think I would need anywhere between 14 to 21 days to teach the game. It's too late to plan anything for this year because the NBA season is coming soon but next year, perhaps from June to September, I could come over. I've had quite a bit of coaching experience in the WNBA and NBA D-League as a head coach and in the NBA as an assistant coach and director of player development. I know I can contribute to uplift the quality of play in the Philippines."
When Brown played for the Celtics, a teammate was legendary PBA import Tony (Hurricane) Harris. "I remember him to be a great athlete," he said. "Tony was a big scorer and a high leaper. He began his NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers, went to the PBA then returned to the NBA with the Celtics. Honestly, I don't know what became of him. He was the first guy I knew who played in the Philippines and it was from him that I found out they play at a high level over there."
Brown, whose daughter Lexie plays for the University of Maryland varsity, said his exposure to international basketball gives him a broader perspective of the game. "I've done a coaching clinic in Hong Kong for the Chinese league coaches and I stay on top of what's going on in leagues in Europe, Africa and of course, the US," he said. "The game has changed from when I used to play. Now, you've got bigs stepping out to take perimeter shots, doing pick-and-roll. You've got guys doing dribble-drives, pass-and-cut and playing a fast pace. In the NBA, the international players are influencing the game. You've got foreigners like Leandro Barbosa and Andrew Bogut playing for Golden State. Small ball has become a winning formula. San Antonio used to be the blueprint of a championship team, now it's the Warriors. At Denver, we've got a lot of international players, too, like Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. We've also got Kenneth Faried who played on the World Cup champion US team and was recently in Manila. We'll probably play a little like San Antonio this season."
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Brown said the highlight of his NBA career was playing for the Celtics. "I'll always cherish the experience of playing for Boston," he said. "The Celtics organization is the template in the NBA, every team wants to copy what it's done to succeed. Just look at the coaches who came from the Celtics like Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale, Brian Shaw, Don Nelson, K. C. Jones, Bill Russell and Rick Carlisle. They've reached the plateau of greatness. I was fortunate to have played for Red Auerbach and with stars like Larry Bird, Robert Parish, McHale and Dennis Johnson. I learned from them how to become a better player on the court and a better person off the court."
To this day, Brown said he is asked about the no-look jam that clinched the NBA Slam Dunk title in 1991. "I had no clue of what I would do before I made that dunk," he said. "I knew I had to do something different to win it. I figured I would either make it or not make it. I went up in the air just trying to be creative. I thought why not try to dunk not looking at the basket. I covered my eyes with my arm and I went up to do it. That was, is and will always be my dunk. Gerald Green tried to do something like it. Gerald jumps really high and does a good job of it. But fans know the no-look was my dunk."
Brown beat Shawn Kemp in the final of the 1991 event. Others who participated that year were Kendall Gill, Blue Edwards, Otis Smith, Kenny Smith, Kenny Williams and Rex Chapman.