NEW YORK – The deal that will make Larry Brown the highest-paid coach in professional sports history and return the Knicks back to respectability again will be finalized Wednesday.

According to multiple sources, Brown has agreed in principle to become the 22nd coach in franchise history and the Knicks’ fourth in 19 months. A press conference to formally introduce Brown will be held no later than Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

As of Tuesday night, the Knicks and Brown’s agent, Joe Glass, were still working out the final details of the contract.

“It’s down to the nitty gritty,” a person close to the negotiations said. “It’s going to get done.”

Glass, however, continues to play it close to vest, saying only that his client intends to be coaching somewhere next season. “We’re having ongoing conversations,” Glass said over the telephone. “We’re no closer now than we were this morning.”

The details of the contract are unclear, although for weeks the rumor around the NBA was that the Knicks would give Brown a five-year contract worth between $50 million and $60 million. One agent, who did not want to be identified, claims that the contract could be as long as six years. Regardless of the final terms of the deal, Brown will still receive the $6 million he negotiated as part of his buyout with the Detroit Pistons. The deal ends a whirlwind eight days for Brown, who reached a settlement with the Pistons on July 19. Two days later, Brown met with Knicks president Isiah Thomas at Brown’s summer home in East Hampton, N.Y. Three days later, Garden chairman James Dolan and Thomas met with Brown on the east end of Long Island.

Brown then traveled to New York City on Monday to have dinner with interim head coach Herb Williams. Thomas and Garden president Steve Mills also attended the dinner. Brown did not want to commit to the Knicks until speaking with Williams, who would have remained as coach had Brown turned down the job. Instead, Williams is expected to remain as Brown’s top assistant, and judging from Brown’s history, Williams could be promoted to the head job sooner than later.

Brown will turn 65 in September, and people close to him doubt that he will last more than four seasons in a stressful environment such as New York. Brown missed 17 games last season in Detroit after having hip surgery in November and developing a bladder condition. The Knicks may want to include an escape clause in Brown’s deal because of his recent health problems.

Health and Brown’s nomadic history aside, the signing will give the Knicks a coach with as much cache as Pat Riley and one who is as demanding and defense-oriented as Jeff Van Gundy.

Brown’s arrival also brings credibility to an organization that has fallen on hard times since Van Gundy left town four years ago.

The Knicks won 33 games last season and haven’t won a playoff series since 2000. Many NBA observers feel that Brown will coach the Knicks into the postseason in April. However, Brown is reportedly not enamored with the roster, and his presence on the sideline could begin a new round of player moves.

Brown likes players who are tough and defensive-minded, which could spell trouble for players such as Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson, Tim Thomas and Maurice Taylor.

Also, Thomas drafted three players in the first round, and there is no guarantee that Channing Frye, Nate Robinson and David Lee will see much playing time next season.

, although Robinson’s hard-nosed style should impress the new coach. In Detroit, Darko Milicic was unable to find consistent minutes, which caused a rift between Brown and Pistons president Joe Dumars.

But now it appears that the Pistons are starting to agree with Brown that Milicic might not have much of a future in Detroit. The New York Daily News reported on Tuesday that the Atlanta Hawks turned down an Al Harrington-for-Milicic deal.

(c) 2005, New York Daily News.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


ARCHIVE PHOTO on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

Larry Brown

AP-NY-07-26-05 2253EDT

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