Hubie Brown, the fiery head coach of pro basketball's New York Knicks, stands in front of a group of newspapermen, eyes flashing, head bobbing, mouth flapping , his right hand holding a rolled-up program from a just completed game.
''We're a 50,'' Brown says as though everybody should know what he means. ''Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles - well, they're 60s. There isn't any way in the world that the Knicks are going to be a 60 this season.''
If you need an explanation for what Hubie has just said, he doesn't even want you talking to him. He thinks you're a colossal waste of time, maybe even a baseball writer who took a wrong turn somewhere. But if he thinks your questions have merit, he'll spend all day answering them.
What Brown means when he says 50 is that the Knicks are capable of winning 50 games; good but not in the same class as the 76ers, the Celtics, the Bucks, or the Lakers. Those four teams, in Hubie's opinion, are going to win 60 or more games during the National Basketball Association's regular season.
When you remind Brown that the Knicks have already beaten Boston twice this year, he has an explanation for that, too.
''Our two victories over the Celtics were both close games,'' he reminds you. ''We got hot near the end of those games and we got some breaks; they didn't. With breaks you can beat anybody. But just because you upset a great team once in a while doesn't mean you're better then they are.
''As far as consistency goes, we blow in and out of the fog,'' he continued. ''You can't get 20 points and 10 rebounds out of your best players one night and 10 points and 5 rebounds out of them the next night and expect to win. That's us right now sometimes, only we're going to get better.''
At this juncture in the conversation, Brown stopped to listen to a reporter who wanted to know how the Knicks managed to score 40 points in one period recently.
''Let me tell you something,'' Hubie replied. ''Any team in the NBA can have a 40-point period. You don't have to be Boston or Philadelphia. Indiana can have a 40-point period. The difference is that when the 76ers score 40 points in 12 minutes, they only give up like 15. When Indiana has a 40-point period, it most likely is going to give up 38 points. You see the difference? You see why some teams are 30s?''
Another reporter wanted to know if Brown had set any specific goals for his team this season.
''In pro basketball,'' he explained emphatically, ''your main goal is always the same: make the playoffs; put yourself in a position where maybe through hard work and cutting down on mistakes you can upset a better team. It's happened before in early playoff rounds and it can happen, will happen, again. But you have to be prepared; you have to recognize the opportunity when it's there and seize on it.
''Good defensive teams, and the Knicks are a good defensive team, always have a chance in the playoffs,'' he added. ''But you also have to win at least one road game or what you do at home is meaningless. Obviously playing better on the road is something we have to improve upon. But in the playoffs, because our guards press so well on defense, we might be able to create a fatigue or a frustration factor in our opponents. If we're lucky, we might beat them with their own turnovers.''
Brown, whose public criticism of the way several NBA coaches work has led to his censure by some colleagues, would never think of attaching shock absorbers to any of his remarks. In retaliation, one coach has pointed out that Hubie has a less-than-.500 record for six NBA seasons.
But Brown simply plows ahead, letting the sod land where it may, all the while expecting that every player on his team is going to give him 200 percent every night whether he likes him personally or not. And Hubie has chewed out enough players during his years in Atlanta and New York that some probably wouldn't want to work for him again.
Frankie Blauschild, who has been a member of the Knicks' front office for years and is currently the team's traveling business manager, says that Brown is one of the best teachers left in pro basketball.
''There are a lot of coaches in the NBA, but there are only a few great teachers, and Hubie is one of them,'' Blauschild explained. ''With Brown, everything he does has a reason or can be defended because it worked somewhere before. He's unlike most coaches, because he won't play by the book just to protect himself if he thinks something else will work better.
''When the Knicks started 14-26 last year and the press was writing Hubie off , he didn't change a thing because that wasn't the problem,'' Frankie continued. ''The problem was that he had a bunch of new guys who had never played on the same team before and needed time to get their act together. Once they did, Brown won 30 of his last 42 games and the Knicks made the playoffs. Sure, Hubie hollers a lot, but Red Auerbach also hollered a lot.''