The ball don't lie, but sometimes Rasheed Wallace's critics do, Larry Brown said.
The former Pistons coach was irritated by some of the reaction Friday to Wallace becoming Coach Sheed in the high school ranks.
“I read a lot of people’s comments and it really troubled me,” Brown told The Detroit News by telephone from Dallas on Friday afternoon. “They don’t have a clue.”
Wallace was introduced Friday morning as the new coach for public Jordan High School in Durham, N.C., doing the job Brown said he might do in retirement by mentoring young people.
Wallace donned a Carolina blue blazer, with a Jordan High School hat slightly cocked, pleated khakis and gym shoes for the press conference.
“It’s a great day to be a Falcon,” Wallace, 44, said to reporters Friday. “I want to see each and every one of you students, faculty, community and boosters out there to support us this upcoming basketball season. It’s going to be a good one, so come support.”
Twitter jokes followed, including sports business reporter Darren Rovell, who opined: “The high school referee job in this conference just got a little more interesting.”
But Brown, the 78-year-old Hall of Famer, said the shared values and famous North Carolina connections, mentored by the late Dean Smith, are enough to be a great foundations.
"Rasheed, if anybody every watched Rasheed play, he played the right way," Brown said. "He didn't care if he got 25 (points) and 15 (rebounds), or 5 and 2, as long as we won.
"I know Coach Smith never let anybody know some of his favorites, but in my mind, I'm sure Rasheed was one of them."
Brown coached Wallace for 22 games and a Pistons NBA championship run in 2004 and then again in 2004-05 as Detroit made another run to the NBA Finals.
Brown played on Smith’s first Tar Heels team in 1961-62 and later coached under him, before Brown became the only coach to win NCAA and NBA titles. Wallace played for Smith late in the coach's career before he retired in 1997.
Wallace, a Philadelphia native, played two seasons for Smith in Chapel Hill before becoming the fourth pick in the 1997 NBA draft. He played 16 seasons in the league and was a four-time All-Star also known for his run-ins with officials, pre-game dancing and sometimes curt post-game comments.
Wallace, who retired in 2013 and was an assistant coach with the Pistons in 2013-14 under head coaches Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer, said the focus will first be on the Jordan Falcons.
“I kept up with this team, pretty much online, I have a lot of guys returning back,” Wallace told reporters on Friday. “But we have to focus on us. I’m not knocking the competition out there because there are a lot of great schools out there that we have to try to compete with. But our focus can’t be those schools, our focus first has to be us. When it’s us first, then that’s when it will be great for Jordan.”
Wallace will join some of his fellow Pistons 2004 champions on the sidelines, as Darvin Ham is an assistant with Milwaukee and Corliss Williamson is an assistant in Phoenix. Lindsey Hunter was a former interim head coach in Phoenix and former college assistant at Buffalo, and Mehmet Okur is a former player development coach in Phoenix.
Those Pistons will be recognized for the 15-year anniversary of the title on April 7 against Charlotte. Brown said he plans to attend Little Caesars Arena for the first time and has talked to former assistant coach Mike Woodson and point guard Chauncey Billups, who plan to be there.
“Anytime I can get back with that group and be around them, I’m just thrilled,” said Brown, who attended jersey retirement ceremonies at The Palace for Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton, but was coaching SMU the night Billups’ No. 1 was raised to the rafters. “I’m hopeful everybody will show up.”
When Brown was at SMU, his final coaching job from 2012-16, he brought Wallace to metropolitan Dallas.
“I brought him to SMU to talk to my team, they were spellbound to listen him,” Brown said. “The values that he had about playing hard and being unselfish, being happy when your teammates did well. ... I think a lot of people realize, I coined the phrase: ‘Play the right way.’ But I got that from Coach Smith. It was the way he taught, and the way he expected us to play."
Brown helps former players and friends by attending games and practices and sharing his knowledge.
"I'm hoping to share what I know with young players and coaches," Brown said. "Just kind of hopefully something comes up that allows me to do that."
Jordan High School is coming off a 7-17 season. But Wallace's old coach thinks there’s success ahead for the Falcons.
“If you have the same values and care about the game, I think that’s Rasheed,” Brown said. “I think that they’ll be so lucky to have someone around to teach them how to play, teach them how to respect the game.
“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve been around, one of the brightest guys, caring guys. He’s given back so much and has never sought any attention for it. He cares about people.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance reporter.