Brown's influence still felt in Memphis

Updated: February 10, 2005, 2:28 AM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider
MEMPHIS – Hubie Brown might have stepped down as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies on Thanksgiving Day, but his spectre still floats along the corridors of the new Fed Ex arena.

Every time Brian Cardinal dives for a loose ball. Every time Stromile Swift rises to the rafters for a block. Every time Jason Williams makes a defensive stop.

Somewhere, Hubie is smiling.

The Grizzlies have rebounded from a 5-11 start under Hubie and interim head coach Lionel Hollins. Since new head coach Mike Fratello took over, the team is 24-10, their latest victory a 98-95 decision at Philadelphia on Wednesday. They posted the second-best record in the league in January with a 12-3 record under Fratello's steady hand.

The Grizzlies are the best team in the NBA that no one is talking about.

And if you believe everyone in Memphis, the retired Hubie is the biggest reason for their newfound success.


The ghost of Hubie was there in all of his glory last Tuesday as the Grizzlies faced the red-hot Phoenix Suns. Down four key players – Pau Gasol, James Posey, Bonzi Wells and Earl Watson – the gritty Grizzlies somehow found a way to defeat the red-hot Suns 108-97.

In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter with the game tied, Fratello signaled for Williams to come in off the bench to replace rookie Antonio Burks, who had come straight off the injured list to play his first minutes since Dec. 13 and was running out of gas.

The Grizzlies were down 89-88 with 5:41 left in the game, and Fratello wanted Williams to anchor the team for the rest of the game.

As Williams waited by the scorer's table, an exhausted Burks hit a three pointer to put the Grizz ahead 91-89.

Williams looked toward the bench at Fratello. Fratello saw him and nodded. A minute later, Burks rose up and hit a second three. Williams began creeping toward the bench and asked Fratello, "Do you want me to come back? Do you still want to take him out?"

Fratello didn't hesitate to put Williams back in the game, but later used Williams' unselfishness to stress a point about this year's Grizzlies.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer