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Friday, June 10, 2005

Brown, Popovich have KU ties

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Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich, the coaching protagonists in the NBA Finals that began Thursday night, have faced each other many times in the pro ranks.

However, Brown, now coach of the defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons, and Spurs coach Popovich met just once as college coaches.

The date was Dec. 1, 1987. The place was Allen Fieldhouse.

Popovich was coach at Pomona-Pitzer, an NCAA Div. III school in Claremont, Calif., from 1979-86.

Then, Popovich used his sabbatical to spend most of the 1986-87 season as an observer of Brown's program at Kansas University.

The meeting between KU and Pomona-Pitzer the following season -- the Jayhawks' home opener in what would be an NCAA championship year -- grew out of that association.

Even though Pomona-Pitzer was in Div. III -- meaning the school awarded no athletic scholarships -- Brown offered to play the Sagehens, in part to pay Popovich back for staying and helping with his program.

Kansas has played several NCAA Div. II schools over the years, but Pomona-Pitzer is believed to be the only Div. III school ever to appear on KU's schedule.

The result was predictable. Even though KU played the Sagehens a day after returning from the Maui Classic, the Jayhawks posted a convincing 94-38 victory. KU made 75.9 percent of its shots that night (41 of 54), still the school record.

Exactly four months later, Kansas stunned Oklahoma, 83-79, for the NCAA championship. In another three months, Brown was head coach of the Spurs. A few days later, Brown asked Popovich if he would like to join his staff.

Popovich said yes and he's been with the Spurs ever since.

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