Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Brown Returns (Again) At SMU
71-year-old Larry Brown is back in saddle again after agreeing to take vacant head coaching position at SMU. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)
Brett Favre, eat your heart out. The quarterback's college basketball coach equivalent has just returned, albeit with significantly less drama than the Super Bowl winner's soap opera-esque retirement dances, but still enough to entice bookmakers to perhaps create prop bets as to just how long he will be around.
Early yesterday afternoon, multiple sources were reporting that Larry Brown (yes, that Larry Brown) had agreed to fill the vacancy created over a month ago at Southern Methodist University after the Mustangs fired head coach Matt Doherty. Brown, who turns 72 in September; and has not coached since parting ways with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010, reportedly finalized a deal yesterday with athletic director Steve Orsini that would bring the only coach to win both an NBA and national championship to Dallas to take the reins of the Mustangs, who move from Conference USA into the Big East in 2013.
SMU was also reported to have hired Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich to serve as "coach in waiting" in the event that Brown leaves sooner than expected, something he has become reputed for doing while in the NBA. However, such a deal between Jankovich and SMU is not official at the moment, and quite honestly, should Jankovich leave Illinois State; it may be perceived as a lateral move, as the Redbirds return everyone from a team that won 21 games and reached the NIT after going from ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference to a third-place tie.
Brown does have significant college experience, having coached at both UCLA and Kansas in the 1980s; winning a national championship with the Jayhawks in 1988, but has also left both schools with sanctions and probation stemming from recruiting. Brown is also notorious for not playing rookies, something that could factor into the future of recruits Brian Bernardi and Blaise Mbargorba. However, his hire does create a buzz for the program that has never been seen before; and the school has widespread national attention for the first time since the "Pony Express" of the Mustangs' football program in the 1980s, a publicity that can only help SMU as they prepare to move into the Big East, where Brown will meet the New York media for the first time since his brief but controversial tenure as head coach of the Knicks. Most notably, Brown has found quick success mostly everywhere he has gone, turning the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers into consistent, long-term winners by the end of his tenure; not to mention guiding the Detroit Pistons to a five-game upset over a heavily favored Los Angeles Laker team that starred Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant to win the 2004 NBA championship, a quality and track record that SMU is hoping he can add to with the Mustangs, who finished 13-19 under fellow North Carolina alum Matt Doherty last season.
After being turned down by Marquette coach Buzz Williams, Steve Orsini has found his man, even if it is someone whose last experience at the college level came before any of his new players were even born. While this hire can be spun in any direction, and while it is a positive move considering the SMU program's impending exodus to the Big East, it can still go either of two ways. Larry Brown will have moderate success at Southern Methodist for a number of years, or he will leave in a relatively short amount of time.