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From Kansas To SMU......24 Years Later

Updated on April 24, 2012

In 1988 Larry Brown won the National Championship as coach of the Kansas Jayhawks. Danny Manning was on that team and given the content of my last article "The Culture Of Losing", I now have so much to talk about with Larry Brown accepting the coaching position at SMU. SMU stands for Southern Methodist University. Let's get that out of the way first because I know many of you out there have never heard of the place. But there are some of us who were alive in the 80's who might remember that 1988 was also the last time the Mustangs(yes i had to answer that one too) won an NCAA Tournament game. I couldn't tell you, however, the name of anyone on that team or any SMU team since. So SMU goes with Larry Brown to try and attract first rate recruits to Dallas(admit it some of you were still asking "Where is SMU?"). The last time Larry Brown was relevant in coaching was in 2005 when he coached the Detroit Pistons to the NBA finals. The high school players he will be trying to recruit were 11 years old or younger at that time and many of them living in Texas or surrounding states. I think it's safe to say that not one of them was aware who the coach of the Pistons was in 2005. The point being that the name Larry Brown no longer has the appeal it once did long ago in the college game, ESPECIALLY at a school which has been so bad at basketball for so long.

Not to mention the fact that SMU is about to join the Big East Conference in 2013. Forgetting for the moment the absurdity of having a school from Texas in a conference called "Big East", let's look at some of SMU's future competitors. They include Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Louisville, West Virginia, and Connecticut. SMU will be lucky to win 12 games each of its first two years in that conference and that's only if they pad their non-conference schedule with the weakest teams they play in their current conference. Three years is all I give Larry Brown at SMU. Why? Let's look at his history.

Larry Brown has been a completely predictable character in the pro coaching ranks. He finds a team with talent, coaches them as best he can until he loses patience with the egos and bad attitudes, and then leaves for someplace where he can do it again. The difference with this endeavor is HE HAS NO TALENT TO BEGIN WITH. Referring to my article from last week, the early 90's was when Brown missed his chance to really leave his imprint on the pro game. After bailing out on the San Antonio Spurs(yes the pattern began right there), he was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1992 with none other than Danny Manning on the team. Granted the huge mistake of taking Danny Ferry in 1989 had already set them back astronomically, but Charles Smith was still there and the opportunity to fix what was wrong was still possible. But what did Brown do just a year and half later? He gave up on the project and left for the Indiana Pacers. The best Manning could do the rest of his career was win "Sixth Man Of The Year" with the Phoenix Suns, coming nowhere close to the expectations of a number one overall pick. I'm sure Danny Manning is still working on a letter to coach Brown which probably goes something like this......"thanks coach for letting my pro career melt into a puddle of mediocrity."

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    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      I couldn't tell from your article if you were critical of SMU for hiring Brown or of Larry Brown for wanting to coach there, but you clearly think it is a bad match. Part of the problem is that there are perhaps 250 coaches in Division I basketball that don't deserve their jobs, at least if the primary criteria for being a good coach is winning on a national level. These "lesser" coaches might build character and turn players into solid citizens with the opportunity to create a good life for themselves. If that is the goal of the school's basketball program, there is no problem. If the goal is to win games against top tier schools and compete for a national championship, there are only 20-25 schools and coaches equipped to do this, which is partially (but not solely) why the same few teams win the NCAA championship every year. When a team is looking to upgrade, they might try ANY link to success they can find, which is what SMU seemingly did in hiring Larry Brown. It begs the question of who SMU should have hired if not Brown. Who is out there that would be willing to take the job and give them a better chance of winning in the Big East? Up-and-coming coaches won't do it, so the program is either forced to look at guys on the downhill side of their career (which SMU did with Brown) or hope they can find a coaching talent unrecognized (as was the case with Butler and VCU).

      Larry Brown is probably still a sound basketball teacher and strategist, and his assistant coach (Tim Jankovich) might just be that up-and-coming coach willing to toil away at SMU. Since he is the "coach-in-waiting", that seems to be the eventual hopes SMU is hanging their hat on.

      Brown has actually lured two transfers to the program--one from Illinois (Crandall Head, a top 100 player) and another from Villanova (Markus Kennedy). They were in the hunt for Arizona's Josiah Turner, but apparently Turner didn't want to go to class, no matter where he enrolled. Highly touted twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison have SMU on their list of schools they are interested in and no one has raised eyebrows at this choice, so it isn't impossible to believe that Brown's reputation as a teacher and a winner might still be working for him.

      Your article switched gears and seemed an indictment of Brown's professional coaching career, but he was better than most, even if his habits were predictable. He didn't ruin Danny Manning's career--multiple injuries to Manning's knees robbed him of his chance to be great. I would still take Brown over most of the guys coaching in the NBA today.

      It may sound as if I am critical of your article, but I am not. I agree that selecting Larry Brown for coach of SMU, especially given his track record, is questionable. I also think Brown's chances of success on the level he is accustomed to are slim, as you noted. I believe that SMU is rolling the dice in the hopes that Brown's name adds much-needed notoriety to the school--even if the players he is recruiting never heard of him.

      Thanks for a very thought-provoking article. I will definitely read more of your work.

      Mike

    • brandonvand profile image
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      brandonvand 4 years ago

      You are right when you say it begs the question "who should have SMU hired?". I encourage you to look at my article "The Billy Gillespie Syndrome". A few years back Texas A&M was really no better off than SMU is now in terms of basketball. They were simply awful. And an "up and coming" coach as you call it named Billy Gillespie took over and made MONUMENTAL progress. But after putting A&M on the brink of greatness he left for Kentucky and now Texas A&M is headed toward awful again. What I'm driving at is even if someone magically turns around SMU(Brown or otherwise), they'll leave shortly thereafter. But I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT see it happening.

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