It was one of the more head-turning hires in recent memory in college basketball. It was also one that probably made you scratch that head. SMU recently hired coaching great Larry Brown, who hadn’t coached at the college level in more than two decades, about the same time that the Mustangs hoops program has been successful.
My first thought was the hire was just to win the press conference and that Brown would stick around to bring in some recruits, have a cup of coffee and then be out the door. He says in the following interview that’s not the case. Despite the fact that the program will have a coach-in-waiting, Brown says he’s hopeful to be around for the long haul to turn the SMU program around.
Larry Brown joined KTCK in Dallas with The Musers to discuss why he decided to get back to the college level, how recruiting will work, what’s up with having a coach-in-waiting, how he’ll go about making sure teams don’t use that against him and getting SMU back to a successful level.
It’s been reported you’ve turned down college jobs somewhat recently. Why decide to coach at SMU?:
“I just think the time was right. I had a young family and it was kind of hard to move them. Since I’ve been out of work a few years, a lot of people that have coached with me and helped me along my way allowed me to come to their practices. I’ve been at Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Villanova. … Watching those guys coach and interact with the kids, and being involved in the college atmosphere and having the chance to teach, I think SMU affords me all that. I was just excited about it. June Jones is kind of the one that pushed me and kept me involved. I’m really thankful that he did it.”
What do you think it will be like recruiting?:
“You mean because I’m too old? No, I think it’s just the opposite to be honest with you. Everywhere I go to visit college kids, and I’ve had the opportunity to go everywhere and watch practice … kids are so interested in me because I’ve had an NBA background. They all want to go to the NBA. … So that, in itself, is a huge advantage. The fact that I’ve coached a lot of great players, they’re all interested in that and want to hear all about it. You get instant credibility right away. And I think the contacts I’ve made as a pro coach and the kids that have coached with me that are now working on every level, they’re all going to help.”
Could you explain the situation of having a coach-in-waiting?:
“I hope he waits a while. When I was interviewed, I think Steve Orsini wanted a standing head coach, and that was a concern they had about me, not being involved in college athletics since 1988. When we got involved more, he thought, ‘Wow, what if we could get a standing head coach that could work with you?’ So I put a list together of guys that are pretty successful head coaches that I have a relationship with because you can’t hire somebody unless you have a relationship. … I didn’t want it to be a lateral move. I wanted to make sure financially they would be OK and I wanted to make sure they could take over when the time was right. … I had a lot of people that had interest and I’m confident we’re going to get somebody that’s going to work with me and, when the time’s right, be able to step right in and be the next head coach.”
On not letting that situation be used against him:
“I don’t want a guy to go out and recruit and people think I’m only going to be here a couple of days. I would imagine a lot of people might use that against you. I know, living in Pennsylvania, they used to kill Coach Paterno about that. He lasted a pretty long time and did a wonderful job. I’m hopeful that I’m in here for the long haul.”
How do you bring winning basketball back to SMU?:
“You just look in Texas. I mean, you go to any great program and there’s Texas kids playing. … Everybody’s recruiting here. There’s great kids in this state. When I was at Kansas, you’d come down here, kids don’t want to leave here. We’re playing in the Big East, which is an amazing conference. … We have a great school, a great location, a great facility. You’ve got the Mavericks here. If you play in the Big East and you’re ever any good, you can play in American Airlines Arena. I would hope that someday we’d create that interest. Villanova does it. I think everything’s in place.”