EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Larry Brown, who has coached the New Jersey Nets to their best NBA season ever, will leave the team immediately and take the coaching job at the University of Kansas, the team said Thursday night.
According to a team spokesman, Brown, who was in the second year of a four-year contract, phoned Kansas officials at about 6 p.m. EST Thursday night and was told 'if you want the job, it's yours.'
The spokesman said that Brown wanted to coach the Nets through this season and into the playoffs, but was told by team owner Joe Taub that 'it would be best if you go now.'
Assistant coach Bill Blair will take over the team on an interim basis, the spokesman said.
The parting was a friendly one, he added, with Taub saying he wanted 'what is best for Larry.' Brown has frequently made it known that he loves college basketball and that if a 'special' job offer came along, he would like to accept it.
'Coach (Dean) Smith (of North Carolina) always told me about Kansas -- that it has a great basketball tradition and would be a great place to coach,' Brown said.
According to the spokesman, Taub told Brown that 'it's my decision that if we have to sever relations, it's best to do it now.'
Brown has guided the Nets, who are in third place in the NBA's Atlantic Division, to a 47-29 record so far this season. They have already clinched a berth in the playoffs.
Last year, in Brown's first season, the Nets went 44-38.
Brown replaces Ted Owens, who was fired from the post by Athletic Director Monte Johnson three weeks ago. Brown said he wants to continue Kansas' 'fine basketball tradition.'
'I want to say how much I appreciate everything the Nets' President Joe Taub has done for me,' Brown said from his office in Newark, N.J. 'Without his full support I would not have this wonderful opportunity.
'It's a tremendous thrill for me to be able to accept this position and be connected with such a prestigious program as Kansas.'
Brown has scheduled a 3 p.m. EST news conference friday in Lawrence, Kansas.
Johnson said he felt fortunate to have landed Brown as the school's new basketball coach.
'To say we are pleased with Larry's decision would be an understatement,' Johnson said. 'We feel we have kept with our main objective of finding a coach with proven credentials and we feel fortunate to have Larry as our coach.
'Kansas has a tremendous basketball history and we are sure Larry will add to it.'
Brown is a 42-year-Ild native of Long Beach, N.Y., and attended the University of North Carolina, where he was an All-America basketball player his senior year in 1963.
He played pro basketball for five seasons in the American Basketball Association for the New Orleans Buccaneers from 1967-68, the Oakland Oaks 1968-69, the Virginia Squires 1969-70 and the Denver Rockets 1970-72.
He was selected Most Valuable Player in the first ABA All-Star game. In five seasons as an ABA player, he averaged 11.2 points per game and 6.7 assists as a guard. Brown began his professional coaching career in 1972 with the ABA's Carolina Cougars, compiling a 104-64 record over two years.
Brown moved to Denver in 1974 and coached the ABA and NBA Denver teams for five seasons, compiling a 251-172 record. During his seven full seasons as a pro coach, Brown's team made the playoffs seven times. His overall professional coaching record is 446-265, a winning percentage of 62.8.
Brown entered college coaching in 1979 at UCLA. He spent two seasons with the Bruins and guided them into the 1980 national championship game against Louisville. Louisville defeated UCLA 59-54.
During his two seasons at UCLA, the Bruins were 22-10 in 1978-79 and 20-7 in 1980-81.