Dallas Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown, the only man to win both an NCAA (Kansas, 1988) and NBA (Detroit, 2004) championship, on Thursday was named head basketball coach at SMU.
Brown, 71, replaces former KU assistant Matt Doherty, who coached at the Conference USA school for six seasons (80-109 record).
“I’m thrilled that they think enough of me to put me in this position,” Brown told the Dallas Morning News. “I realize how important this hire is, going into the Big East (in two years). I always thought of myself as a college coach. Now this gives me a chance to get back where I started.”
Brown, whose contract terms weren’t revealed at the private school, may hire Illinois State coach/former KU assistant Tim Jankovich as a “coach in waiting.” The Pantagraph newspaper said Jankovich is “conflicted” in deciding whether to leave ISU to be an assistant again.
One of Brown’s prize pupils — KU All-American Danny Manning — will coach against Brown twice next season. Manning recently was named coach at Tulsa of Conference USA.
“It’ll be fun and I’ll enjoy it,” Manning told the Tulsa World. “When I see coach Brown, he’s going to have a lot of love and pride for me and I’m going to have the same for him.
“Coach Brown’s love and thirst for the game is unmatched,” Manning added. “People talk about him being away from the game for the last few years. He just hasn’t been a head coach. He hasn’t been away from the game. He’s been at practices at Villanova, Kentucky and Kansas. He’s been to NBA practices. Coach Brown, in the game of basketball, will always be connected. It’s his understanding of the game. I’ve never been around a coach with a better feel for the game of basketball. I’ve been around him a lot of years, as a player and a person, and it’s really affected me and the way I look at things. But it’s something that will always be a part of me, as a player and a coach.”
Brown spent several weeks with KU’s team this past season, following the Jayhawks through the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
“Our players loved him,” KU coach Bill Self said. “This means a lot, because I know how much it means to him. He has nothing to prove, but he’s passionate and he loves to coach. They hired a guy who is a proven winner.”
Self, who spoke on Brown’s behalf to SMU athletic director Steve Orsini, said that Brown, who is in good physical condition and works out regularly, seems closer to 55 years old than 71.
“People have to understand, you’re coaching college kids in the NBA, so I’ve found out kids want to be taught, they want to be coached, they want to get better,” Brown said. “I really think the fact that I’ve had a background in both areas is going to help me.”
The Morning News said SMU is willing to pay more than $800,000 a year with a five-to-seven year guaranteed deal to secure Jankovich as top assistant. Former Illinois assistant Jerrance Howard and Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland are expected to join Brown.
Brown hasn’t coached since he left the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats in 2010 and hasn’t coached at the college level since leading KU to the national title in 1988. That’s the last season SMU won an NCAA tourney game. He will rank among the oldest active Division I coaches. Jackson’s State’s Tevester Anderson is 75. Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun turns 70 in May. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and San Diego State’s Steve Fisher are 67.
“Larry Brown is one of the top coaches in the history of the game,” Orsini said. “He is a legend and has made every team he has ever coached a winner. As we transition into the nation’s top basketball conference, the Big East, his leadership will be invaluable.”
Next up is Brown naming his assistant coaches.
“That’s the hardest thing, I think,” he said. “I don’t have enough jobs to help people that have been great to me. It’s been pretty painful in that respect.”