Kansas University has dipped into the pro ranks, and apparently deep into its own coffers, to hire a new basketball coach.
Larry Brown, 42, agreed Thursday afternoon to leave his $200,000-a-year job with the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Assn. and become the Jayhawks' new head coach.
KU Athletic Director Monte Johnson did not divulge Brown's salary, saying details would be worked out when the University of North Carolina alumnus arrived here this afternoon to meet with the press and the players.
Meanwhile, former KU coach Ted Owens was in Santa Barbara, Calif., interviewing for the basketball vacancy at the University of California-Santa Barbara.
By Chuck Woodling
J-W Sports Editor
Apparently the seed was planted last weekend in Albuquerque when Monte Johnson huddled with Dean Smith about the Kansas basketball coaching vacancy.
Smith didn't want to leave North Carolina and return to his alma mater, but Smith did mention the name of Larry Brown, one of his former players, as a possibility.
Brown's name caught Johnson unprepared.
"I WAS surprised he might be available," Johnson admitted. "I didn't know him except by reputation."
Brown had a reputation, all right. The 42-year-old ex-Tar Heel has always been considered a winner -- he's never had a losing season as a coach -- but the coaching fraternity also considered him locked into the NBA.
Brown's only college experience consisted of two years at UCLA (1979-80 and 1980-81) and, when he left Westwood for the New Jersey Nets, Brown hinted strongly that he prefered coaching in the pro ranks.
Obviously, Brown changed his mind.
"Dean was one who recommended him storngly," Johnson said, "and also a couple of people outside of coaching who knew him in Denver, and Billy Packer (CBS-TV basketball analyst) called and told me he (Brown) was interested in getting back in college coaching.
"I talked to Terry Donahue (UCLA football coach) and he thinks the world of him. Ray Meyer (DePaul's head coach) was very complimentary. And Dave Robisch, who played with him one year and was coached by him for a year, said he's excellent and a good teacher."
All in all, Johnson heard enough to set up a visit. It occurred on Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel near Kansas City International airport. Word leaked out about the meeting, and Brown later denied interest in the job. He even went so far as to say he hadn't even talked to anyone at Kansas.
"We DID visit," Johnson confirmed, "and it was very awkward for him because of the situation he was in with the Nets."
When the deadline for applications expired on Wednesday night, Brown's name was tossed around at a meeting of the search committee. On Thursday, discussions between Brown and search committee chairman Lonnie Rose continued by phone.
Johnson returned from a speaking engagement in Kansas City late Thursday afternoon, met with Rose and made a phone call to East Rutherford, N.J.
"He (Brown) was at the airport ready to go to Detroit and we offered him the job," Johnson explained.
Brown accepted , even though no firm salary has been set and there's no guarantee the new KU coach will be able to supplement his income with a summer basketball camp. Former coach Ted Owens has said he plans to continue his camp here this summer.
"We'll firm up the contract when he (Brown) gets here," Johnson said. "From our discussions, though, he was satisfied."
Ostensibly, Johnson had to come up with a lucrative package because Brown's salary was $200,000 a year with the Nets. Owens' salary was $47,300.
"He told me," Johnson said,"that the money didn't have that much to do with it. He said he looked at it mainly for the opportunity."
Brown was to arrive here about noon. He was scheduled to meet with the press at 2 p.m, with the returning players at 3 p.m. and then, with members of Owens' staff after that.
One of the aides, Jo Jo White, has said he'd like to stay here, but that decision is up to Brown, according to Johnson.
White helped recruit several players currently on the team and White apparently can also deliver prep standout Curtis Aiken of Buffalo, N.Y.