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If Brown leaves, Bobcats will . . .?

Asked Friday if he could imagine himself not coaching next season, the Charlotte Bobcats' Larry Brown replied with a joke.

"No," Brown responded, "but there's an opening at Episcopal High School in Philly," where his two teenage children attend.

Brown is coaching his ninth NBA franchise. He's 69 with a wife and kids back in suburban Philadelphia. He returned there Friday to consult with them on whether to return for a third season with the Bobcats.

Brown said Friday he loves his job, reiterating he doesn't intend to coach for anyone but Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. He also acknowledged that living away from his family is a hardship and he doesn't want to "blink" someday to discover his kids are grown and out of the house.

So consider it a 50-50 proposition whether Brown returns to the Bobcats, raising this question if he does leave:

What next?

The issues a coaching change would potentially bring to a head:

The roster

Brown has very specific priorities in constructing a roster. He can repeat them almost like a chant: "Four athletic bigs ... three guards who can handle the ball ... etc. etc."

Add to that he typically values defense at the expense of offense and places a high premium on size, shotblocking and basketball IQ. That's not to say other coaches wouldn't want tall, smart shotblockers. But they wouldn't necessarily devote the resources the Bobcats have to stock the front line with five big men (two of whom, DeSagana Diop and Alexis Ajinca, have yet to produce).

Brown acknowledged that about Diop Friday, saying, "He has a lot of work to do because, quite honestly, you can't trade his contract.''

In pursuing size and defense, the Bobcats dealt away perimeter scoring. Spot-up jump shooters such as Raja Bell and Matt Carroll were traded for players with other skill sets.

Brown is no fan of the 3-point line and coaxes his teams to drive the ball more, creating additional free-throw opportunities. But scouting caught up to this team, particularly in the playoffs, when the Orlando Magic swept them by playing a zone defense that dared the Bobcats to win from the outside.

Another coach - New York's Mike D'Antoni, for instance - wouldn't necessarily see the Bobcats as having parts well-suited to his system. Think of a restaurant shifting on the fly from French cuisine to barbecue - there wouldn't be much food in the freezer you could use on both menus.

That potential problem could be exacerbated by the steps the Bobcats have taken to assemble the current roster.

The tradeoffs

The Bobcats are a better team now than when Brown arrived. But Jordan and general manager Rod Higgins have somewhat mortgaged the future to assemble a roster to Brown's needs.

Including a likely qualifying offer to restricted free agent Tyrus Thomas, the Bobcats have about $59 million in payroll obligations for next season. That's before re-signing or replacing point guard Raymond Felton, who is an unrestricted free agent in July.

Beyond that, the Bobcats have already traded two first-round picks: Minnesota gets June's first-rounder (via Denver) as compensation for the pick that acquired Ajinca. They owe Chicago a first-rounder (no sooner than 2012) in the deal that acquired Thomas.

Jordan acknowledged the day he was introduced as majority owner that there's no easy route to upgrading this roster, and it might be necessary to sacrifice talent in an off-season trade to improve their payroll situation.

That's not the news a coaching candidate would welcome as he contemplates a job change.

Jordan, the owner

Jordan's record hiring head coaches is mixed at best. Here and in Washington (he ran the Wizards' basketball operation in 2000 and part of 2001), he made one excellent hire (Brown), one decent hire (Doug Collins in Washington) and two disasters (Leonard Hamilton in Washington and Sam Vincent in Charlotte each lasted one season).

And so, if Brown leaves

Unfortunately, the ideal successor to Brown is employed. Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles shares Brown's intensity and values (tough and smart teams that make opponents look bad). Skiles could inherit this roster and maybe even improve the production.

With Skiles unavailable, here are some possibilities: These aren't predictions but some food for thought:

Dave Hanners, Bobcats assistant: Brown is smart and meticulous, qualities he shares with longtime assistant Hanners. Hanners might not have the gravitas of a former NBA star or a national television analyst, but he knows this team and teaches the game exceedingly well.

Jeff Van Gundy, ABC/ESPN analyst: He built quite a resume coaching the Knicks and the Rockets. But, according to his brother, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, he's happy in his TV gig. Wooing him would be expensive.

Doug Collins, TNT analyst: He has a strong relationship with Jordan from their days together in Washington and Chicago. He seems receptive to getting back into coaching. But Collins can be very controlling - calling a play virtually every possession - and do the Bobcats need even more structure?

Mike Woodson, Atlanta coach: This is probably a long shot, with the Hawks advancing in the playoffs. But Woodson's contract expires after this season and he is a former Brown assistant. That could make for a smooth transition.

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