The Legendary Larry Brown Brings his Talent to the Hilltop
BY: Dic Humphrey
@DicHumphrey on twitter
University Park, Texas. Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown was introduced to local media and SMU supporters this afternoon. Basketball royalty in attendance included Brown’s longtime friend, Kansas head coach Bill Self, as well as Rolando Blackman, one of the all time best Dallas Maverick players. Numerous former SMU players were there too, including Denny Holman, Ira Terrell, Jerryl Sasser and David Miller. Weather-wise, it was a Chamber of Commerce day for the gathering in front of the west entrance to Moody Coliseum.
School President, Dr. Gerald Turner led off by reiterating the school’s commitment to putting forth a quality basketball program, saying, “The announcement last week of our new basketball coach should remove any doubt about our commitment to basketball.” Financial details of Brown’s contract have not been released, but it is certain that SMU’s financial commitment, not only to Brown’s seven figure salary, but to assistant coaches to complete his staff is enormous compared to the amount the school has been spending in recent years.
Athletic Director Steve Orsini was literally gushing as he took the podium. He noted that it took 37 days to land his new basketball coach, down from the 71 days it took a few years ago to land June Jones for football. “We kept telling ourselves, we’ve got to get it right,” he recalled about the search. “I think we absolutely hit our mark in Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown. We have everything in place now to make (SMU) basketball competitive in the Big East.”
Brown, the only coach to win both an NCAA Championship, which he did at Kansas and an NBA Championship, which he did at Detroit, was smartly dressed in a navy suit and tie. He was appreciative of the opportunity to coach again, and for getting the opportunity at SMU. “I couldn’t be at a better place at a time in my life than right here.” He particularly noted SMU’s head football coach June Jones’ role in making his hire a reality. “I think it was his persistence that kept me in the mix. I hope I can follow in his footsteps to make this program successful.”
Brown noted a number of private school programs that are consistently successful in basketball, including Duke, Stanford and Vanderbilt. Referencing Duke, he said, “They fill it every night and play quality basketball with quality kids. We want to do that here.”
On the topic of recruiting, Brown was most complimentary of the talent that comes out of the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, and he is optimistic about enticing that talent to the Hilltop. “If we can get a kid to visit here, I can’t imagine him going anywhere else.”
Regarding his coaching staff, he said, “We’ll have a great staff. I’ve had about 1,000 calls from people who want a job here.” Brown added in response to questions about his age, “Obviously, I need someone with head coaching experience.” Illinois State head coach and longtime friend of Brown, Tim Jankovich, would fit that bill and has been rumored to be joining Brown at SMU. He did not comment specifically on Jankovich, other than to say, “He’s out recruiting somewhere.” He did say that he expects to name two and maybe three assistants shortly.
“Being a college coach, you’re really a teacher, and that’s what I love to do. I love practice. Practice? I’m talking about practice!” The audience recognized the inflection of that last comment and immediately reacted with a polite round of laughter in reference to a famous (or infamous) quote from Allen Iverson, one of Brown’s former NBA players.
Brown said that he had met with the players in the program that are returning and has been in contact with the recruits that have signed to arrive next fall. “I wanted to assure them (returning players) that we’ll have a great staff. I told them we have a lot of work to do to go to the Big East.”
As for his knowledge of the existing talent, he said that previous Head Coach Matt Doherty and his staff had been extremely helpful in providing information assist him in evaluating the players. He noted though, “Until you’re out on the court with them, you don’t know.”
As SMU’s 2011-12 season came to a disappointing end, there were rumors that a couple of the younger players might be transferring for greener pastures. Brown was asked if he expected any of the returning players to depart, and his reply was perhaps telling. He noted the current players were recruited to a Conference-USA program, a strong hint that some of the returning players are of lesser quality than Brown is seeking, and may not have their scholarships renewed.
Brown did not commit to any particular style of play saying, “first we gotta see what our players can do. We will be man-to-man, and we’ll pick you up at the airport. I can’t coach multiple defenses.”
Also attending Monday afternoon was former Head Coach Matt Doherty. Brown said the decision for Doherty to attend was solely Doherty’s. Doherty was certainly gracious telling supporters that Brown is a great hire for the school and that he expects Brown to be successful. On a personal note, he indicated that he and his family will be moving to Charlotte, North Carolina at the end of June.
Renovation of Moody Coliseum is set to commence in August, and President Turner expressed his confidence that it would be completed in time to begin Big East Conference play in the 2013-14 season. The artist renderings are exciting. The hiring of Larry Brown has already been a PR coup for SMU. Hopefully, he will be able put a basketball team on the floor that will match the quality of the renovated Moody Coliseum, and keep SMU in the eye of Division I basketball.