Hall-Of-Fame Coach Larry Brown on Conference Realignment in College Sports: “It’s Terrible”

March 5, 2013 – 10:30 am by Chris Fedor

Hall-Of-Fame coach Larry Brown has made stops everywhere, both in the NBA and in college basketball. His latest stop, SMU, is a surprising one for the 72-year-old. The Mustangs haven’t ever been relevant in basketball, they play in an incredibly out-dated arena and they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament in 20 years. Year one for Brown got off to a good start. The Mustangs charged out of the gates, winning eight of their first nine games. It’s been downhill since conference play started though.

Brown’s team now has a 14-15 record overall and just four wins in 14 tries against Conference USA foes. It doesn’t look like things will get better any time soon either. Brown’s plan was to join the Big East in 2013-2014. It was expected to give the program a boost and some credibility on the college basketball landscape. Instead the Big East is crumbling, the future is cloudy and the conference will be a shell of what it used to be. Renovations are coming to SMU’s arena but it will take much more than that to put them on the college basketball map.

Larry Brown joined ESPN Radio New York with Mike Lupica to talk about how tough it has been to turn a program around, whether he thinks conference realignment is a good thing for college sports, what team in the NBA he thinks will play the Heat in the Finals and what he thinks has gone wrong with the Lakers this season.

How tough it has been trying to turn a program around like he is:

“It’s been tough. Played UAB, had a chance to win and like we have done so many games, couldn’t finish. Ended up losing in the last minute but it has been fun. I have a great staff. I don’t know where the landscape of college athletics are going with all these conference changes. We thought we were going in the Big East and I don’t know what our conference will be called or who will be making it up, but it has been a lot of fun. I love what I do.”

Whether he thinks the conference realignment has been good for college sports:

“No, I think it’s terrible Mike. Mark Turgeon played for me and coached with me at Maryland and they had the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and played at Northwestern and his kids got home at 4:30 in the morning and had to go to class. The NCAA always says that it’s in the best interest of college athletics whenever they send out a memo to you, but they (the Terrapins) charter. Could you imagine Maryland’s field hockey team playing in Omaha and flying back? They might even make them bus back. I don’t know how it happens. I don’t know how Maryland doesn’t play Virginia and Texas doesn’t play Texas A&M. Kansas doesn’t play Missouri in other sports. Doesn’t make any sense to me. I really think it hurts in the long run.”

What team in the NBA he thinks will play the Heat in the Finals:

“Well you know I love Pop. I mean I don’t think there is a better coach in our sport but I’m amazed at how well the Clippers are playing. I know when you get into the playoffs the game gets a lot of halfcourt and execution becomes a huge factor but they’re playing at a really high level right now. That is my only concern is what happens when you get more halfcourt kind of basketball. Pop has depth. The Thunder, if they would have kept (James) Harden, I think they would have had a chance to win a lot of championships. (Host: You think that was a mistake Larry?) Oh absolutely. On both parts. How much difference would that contract have made for that kid over the course of his career? I don’t get it. When you have three young kids that are that good and they’re all great guys, you have a chance to do something so special for such a long period of time. I don’t understand that one.”

On what has gone wrong with the Lakers:

“I think a couple of things happened. They have no bench and he (Mike D’Antoni) inherited the team late. When you take over a team in the middle of the year, he really didn’t have a lot of time to practice, you really don’t know your personnel. He’s not getting Kobe when we all know how Kobe was, he’s a much different player, but his style has to have certain elements and sometimes as a coach you have to fit the people you have. All those things being equal I think is a tough thing to have success.”

Listen to Larry Brown on ESPN New York here (9 minutes into podcast)

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