Thursday, December 27, 2012

Larry Brown hands-on at latest stop — SMU

In this photo from Nov. 28, 2012, SMU head coach Larry Brown instructs his team against Utah in Salt Lake City. The well-traveled coach — who led Kansas University to the 1988 NCAA crown — has SMU off to a 9-4 start.

In this photo from Nov. 28, 2012, SMU head coach Larry Brown instructs his team against Utah in Salt Lake City. The well-traveled coach — who led Kansas University to the 1988 NCAA crown — has SMU off to a 9-4 start.



Associated Press

In this photo from Nov. 28, 2012, SMU head coach Larry Brown instructs his team against Utah in Salt Lake City. The well-traveled coach — who led Kansas University to the 1988 NCAA crown — has SMU off to a 9-4 start.

— Larry Brown was a young assistant on coach Dean Smith’s staff at North Carolina in the mid-1960s when he turned down his first head-coaching offer.

At the time, Brown didn’t think he was ready. But Smith asked him where he’d like to coach one day.

“I said, of course North Carolina, but I didn’t ever want to see him step down,” Brown recalled. “So I said Stanford, Northwestern, Princeton and Vanderbilt. ... Great academically and great conferences and great areas to live.”

A record nine NBA jobs later and a quarter century after leading Kansas University to an NCAA title, the 72-year-old Brown found that kind of fit in his return to coaching this season at SMU.

“We don’t have the tradition of Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA,” said Brown, whose Mustangs are off to a 9-4 start. “But I don’t think we’ll shortchange a kid in terms of getting an education and coaching them up and giving them a chance to be successful.”

For anyone who thought the Hall of Fame coach went to SMU as a figurehead for a struggling program with a pending move to the ever-changing Big East Conference, it quickly becomes clear why he’s back in the game.

“The only reason I took a job is because I love to coach and teach, and this school afforded me this opportunity,” he said.

Brown had to be told during early games to stay in the coaching box. He holds out his hands questioning a non-call by a referee, tries to prompt his team to run its play at the right pace and chides a player for hanging on the rim after a dunk.

During practice, Brown gets right in the middle of his post players to demonstrate what he wants them to do. He swishes a shot to start a drill, then moves up and down the court, waving his hands to direct the action.

“We all thought that he may come in, be like the GM figure. ... That’s so wrong,” SMU junior guard Nick Russell said. “He’s in practice, and he’s screaming, and he’s running and he’s dribbling and shooting hook shots. He’s doing it all. He’s involved and his presence is felt day in and day out.”

Brown was hired in April to replace the fired Matt Doherty, who went 80-109 in six seasons. Brown left the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats in December 2010.

While home in the Philadelphia area with his wife and two high school-age kids, Brown spent many days at Villanova games and practices with coach Jay Wright. Brown also visited friends like Kansas coach Bill Self, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Maryland’s Mark Turgeon, but stayed away from NBA arenas.

“He’s a piece of work,” Wright said. “I do miss him, but I know how happy he is down there.”

Tim Jankovich was Illinois State’s head coach the past five seasons after working on Self’s staff. He had one of his best Redbirds teams coming back this season, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Brown, a coach he has always followed and studied.

“What’s struck me is the amount of energy that he has,” said Jankovich, SMU’s associate head coach and Brown’s expected successor. “His energy is that of someone 20 years younger. ... He’s still passionate about the game.”

The Mustangs’ last NCAA Tournament was in 1993. Their last NCAA victory was 1988, the same season Brown won the title at Kansas.

In a tight concourse at Moody Coliseum, which is undergoing a massive $47 million renovation, there is a case with some of the Mustangs’ old trophies. The 1993 Southwest Conference championship trophy is near one recognizing a 1957 league title and another from 1935. There is a folded-up jersey once worn by 7-foot center Jon Koncak.

After his first SMU practice, Brown told players he was going to “pray that we win a game.” He seriously asked them to do the same.

“He was like, ‘Ah, this is terrible.’ ... It was our first time playing against one another,” said junior forward Shawn Williams, chuckling at the memory. “I expected a little rust, but I think with him being around NBA guys, it was a little different.”

Self, who attended Brown’s SMU introduction along with Doherty, stays in touch with Brown and remembers a call he got last month after a difficult Jayhawks victory.

“He told me how good we’re doing, and I said, ‘Are you watching the same stuff I watched?’ Which goes totally against how he used to be,” Self said. “Because if he’s talking about his own team, they’re always awful.”

Brown seems to like his team now — and the players waiting for next season.

Three transfers get to practice while having to sit out this year, including players from Villanova and Illinois State. A top-notch junior college player and two Chicago-area high school standouts have signed letters of intent for next season.

Brown admittedly isn’t crazy about recruiting, and there have also been a lot of changes in the college game since he was at UCLA (1979-81) and Kansas (1983-88).

“It’s become four different professions in the time I’ve been in it, it changes so much,” said Jankovich, in his 30th season coaching. “I sometimes try to see it through his eyes, and I’m like, ‘You must think you’re on Mars sometimes.’ ... But he’s very bright, and he’s a fast learner, and he’s very observant.”

Many young players know little about Brown, the only coach to win NBA and NCAA titles.

When Brown was recently watching some high school games in Beaumont, Texas, some seventh- and eighth-graders sitting nearby were trying to figure out what SMU was.

“There’s a big hill to climb,” Brown said. “It’s a little different when you’re at North Carolina and UCLA and Kansas.”

“You walk into a home where you see a kid, maybe they recognize your program based on the tradition and the excellence and stuff like that. ... That being said, I know in my heart we’re going to be like those other programs. I really believe that.”

Brown, in his 14th job and with a reputation for impressive turnarounds and often messy or quick departures, also knows the inevitable question: How long will he be at SMU?

Jankovich gets asked that and doesn’t know the answer — and figures Brown probably doesn’t, either.

“Other people bring it up about how long I’m going to stay, and it’s based on my age and based on my track record,” Brown said. “It’s a question I should have to answer because I have moved, and I don’t know if any Division I head coach is older than me.”

There is. Jackson State’s Tevester Anderson is 75.

As for how long he will keep coaching this time, Brown said he always wants to be doing something in basketball.

“Nobody has had a background like me. Not only the people I played for or worked for, it’s the people who worked with or the people I coached,” Brown said. “Why not share what they taught me?

“I don’t look at mirrors or celebrate birthdays,” he said. “Otherwise, I feel exactly like I did when I was coach’s assistant at North Carolina.”


MinnesotaJay 2 years, 11 months ago

Gotta love Larry Brown. All the best, Coach!

jgkojak 2 years, 11 months ago

Coach Self isn't going anywhere - he'll be so close to besting Roy's win total, and within a few of besting Owens coaching yrs.

If he left, I'd say Turg, Manning and Jank would be the three guys talked about as replacements.

Paul Brozik 2 years, 11 months ago

He didn't say he's not touching 900 wins. He said he's not breaking coach Ks record. Who knows what the record will end up at. I'm pretty confident self will win 900 games.

KEITHMILES05 2 years, 11 months ago

“We don’t have the tradition of Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA,” said Brown

I find it odd he left out Kansas.

akgjenkintown 2 years, 11 months ago

+1. Strange KU was not the first school he would mention, let alone not included at all in his top 4.

Dale Stringer 2 years, 11 months ago

I perfer think that in tradition, there's the Kansas level, then a step down is the Carolina-Duke-Kentucky-UCLA level. He has the chance to get SMU to the latter, but no one is capable to make it to KU's level.

monkeehawkSL8 2 years, 11 months ago

There have been 8 head coaches in the HISTORY of Jayhawk basketball. Coach Brown being the one with the shortest tenure. He is, ah, well traveled.

I can't list all the jobs he's had. I don't know him personally. He, from my very limited, uneducated point of view is unlike any other coach that has paced the floor @ the Fog. They are all different, but........

When any one has had as many jobs in the coaching arena as he has had, nothing he could say would surprise me. He is always selling himself.

jgkojak 2 years, 11 months ago

I bet the UNC guys are feeling stupid about now -

there was talk about bringing in LB to coach after Gutheridge had to retire - but concern about him being too old - ha! He'd still be coaching.

yates33333 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes. He would have done a great job for them. But as you note we'd not have Self. I understand young players not realizing who LB is, but I think it is sad when you don't know the best in the sport where you excel.

daytonahawk2 2 years, 11 months ago

Side note: SMU and Tulsa (Danny Manning) are playing January 6th ...

Make_Ur_Free_Throws 2 years, 11 months ago

Glad to hear that SMU players seem to respect and value Coach Brown's leadership. I'm sure Larry Brown has had many, many young egos to contend with over his long career, and the fact that he is still successful after all these years shows he knows how to connect with players, and teach them, even when they probably thought they already knew it all!

DCLawHawk 2 years, 11 months ago

Between Jank and Turgeon, there is no contest. It has to be Turgeon. He has shown an ability to take multiple teams to the tourney. Manning is a closer call, but I would still take Mark Turgeon on current evidence. By the time Self retires (I hope many, many years away), the evidence may point a different direction. If Self retired today, I would pick Brad Stevens or Turgeon.

Jack Wilson 2 years, 11 months ago

+1 .. Stevens would be my pick, too. 1) Stevens 2) Boyle 3) Turgeon.

Though I might make a run at Billy Donovan.

AsadZ 2 years, 11 months ago

Boyle would be my last choice from above, he appears to be run and gun type, similar to Roy.

Billy D from FL would be my 1st choice.

Mike Bratisax 2 years, 11 months ago

No love for Shaka Smart? He has turned down much larger contracts to stay with VCU, similar to what Brad Stevens has done. He has also won a lot just as Brad Stevens has done.

Not saying he would be my first choice but I would want to interview him if things stay the same.

Curtis Stutz 2 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like Coach Brown has a chance for a big win hosting Wyoming in the near future, will be interesting to see how that game goes down. Sagarin has WYO at #11 right now.

jaybate 2 years, 11 months ago

Moses leading another program to the promised land.

9 and 4 at SMU at the age of 72 after being out of college coaching since 1988 and out of basketball since 2010 and with two knee replacements and a hip replacement, or two?

Larry "Moses" Brown is one off. Original. Unique. Mold broken. Tossed somewhere back in Egypt. This guy is so far beyond parting ABA and college basketball Red Seas. He is so far beyond lightening etched tablets in Lawrence. He is so far beyond 40 days and 40 nights in San Antonio, Phillie, Detroit and Charlotte.

Moses is now out to prove Michael Jordan wrong.

Moses is now out to make Michael have to rehire Moses at the age of 77 or 80, for twice what he was being paid before, after he's won a ring at SMU.

Who know? UNC may have to hire Moses to replace Roy.

Good lord! UCLA or KU may have to hire him back when he's in his hundreds.

Moses has a huge pot of gold. Moses can afford the best transplants money can buy. Moses may coach to 150.

Go, Moses, go!!!!!

Mike Bratisax 2 years, 11 months ago

I've always known him as Larry 'Bags Are Packed' Brown. Other than his latest stint with the Knicks, he has always been successful.

If he had committed himself to one program and stayed with it, I believe he would be a 900 win coach. Just an opinion.

jaybate 2 years, 11 months ago

P.S.: I wonder if these SMU players know that Moses knows a whole lot more about the game than he is sharing with them. I wonder if they realize that he could overload and short circuit their brains in one practice, if he were to do a brain dump of all he knows about the game? I wonder if they know how flipping lucky they are to learn the game from Moses? God, I hope they do. Janks has been at the game for 30 years. Janks learned under one of the greats in Jack Hartman. Janks shared and soaked up everything there was to know about Okie Ball with Bill Self, one of the new greats. Janks was a head coach. Janks jumped at the chance to learn from LB. Sheesh! Tell the kids that they are in Mose's tribe now. This makes them different from all the others.

jaybate 2 years, 11 months ago

P.P.S.: Jackson State and SMU have to schedule a home and home. Tevester vs. Moses. Moses vs. Tevester. Make it happen, basketball gods, make it happen.

Kristen Downing 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm sure that I am just a worrier, but anybody else thinking Self could be a candidate for the Nets? I doubt they will be able to convince Jackson to come and I think Deron Williams has a lot of pull....Deron is not easy to work with and Self had no problems with him in college. And of course there is Tyshawn.

Mike Bratisax 2 years, 11 months ago

If HCBS had NBA aspirations, he would be the head coach at Oklahoma City. The NBA is a completely different game. Managing multimillion dollar egos I believe is why so many college head coaches have not fared well in the NBA.

JayhawkPurist 2 years, 11 months ago

Self living in NYC and working for a Russian autocrat? Uh, not going to happen.

Mike Bratisax 2 years, 11 months ago

I hope this chart comes out semi legible:

Brown's worst seasons as NBA coach Team Record Season w/team Next season with team

'88-89 Spurs 21-61 First 56-26*

'05-06 Knicks 23-59 First Fired

'97-98 76ers 31-51 First 28-22 Made playoffs

Brown has proven that he can turn things around quickly but the Knicks and Isaiah Thomas were a little too impatient.

Robert Brock 2 years, 11 months ago

LB will tire of SMU real quick. I hope that Coach Jank likes the deal. Tell me again what conference the Ponies are in/will be in...

Steve Brown 2 years, 11 months ago

So many great LB memories. We had the game in AFH lost to Sooners the year they won the conference. After the game they came out with step ladders to cut our nets. Tubbs was taunting the crowd, I was in it. Many sports reporters tried to goad Larry into a competitive comment, he replied, "the world is round." For those of you that don't know, look up who Danny and the Miracles beat in '88 to win the big one. LB perhaps best ever tactical bench coach, or tied for 1st with Bobby K.

mikehawk 2 years, 11 months ago

Coach Brown has forgotten more about basketball than many D-1 coaches will ever know. He is as pure a coach, who loves to teach the game, maybe as much as any who have ever paced the sidelines. Doesn't like to recruit (Jank can handle that for him). Doesn't really like the media stuff (all the media cares about there is football anyway). Puts up with the media. Doesn't strike me as someone who likes back side kissing to senior administrator/superiors, and probably doesn't have much taste for schmoozing donors any more than necessary. With his age, the state of SMU basketball, the talent located right in the metroplex area, low expectations from donor base, and his "need to coach," the SMU job is perfect for him. If SMU gets three years out of him, they should get down on their knees and thank him for every minute they have him. Just leave him alone and let him coach. The man is a true coaching icon. Every team (at least their coaches, if not the coaches) on the schedule has taken note of who the new SMU coach is, I can assure you.

Duane Rice 2 years, 11 months ago

Jank, Turgeon, or Manning? How about No. We are Kansas we don't need an ex player or assiantant to coach here. There are no coaching jobs better than ku and maybe only 5 as good. You go out and get the best coach for the job. Hypothetically!

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