Philadelphia, PA – It's never too late to go back to school. Just ask Larry Brown. It's been more than 20 years since Brown stepped onto a college campus to direct a basketball program, but that all changed last week when it was announced that Brown would take the reins at Southern Methodist University.
Brown is largely remembered for his efforts on the sidelines in the NBA where he coached seven different teams in the last 22 years, including stops with the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers.
During his NBA coaching career Brown won 1,098 games, which is currently ranked sixth all-time, and he won an NBA Championship in 2004 with Detroit, making him the only coach to win titles in both the NCAA and NBA. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2002.
However Brown got his first head coaching job at the college level. After playing for seven seasons in the ABA, Brown took over the top the coaching job at Davidson College in 1972, although he never actually coached a game for the Wildcats as he took over the Carolina Cougars of the ABA during the off-season leading into 1972.
Brown made his first real dive into college basketball as he took one of the more prestigious jobs in the country by taking over at UCLA. Brown got off to a fast start with the Bruins, leading the team to the 1980 NCAA Championship game, resulting in a loss to Louisville. The appearance in the Final Four would later be vacated after it was revealed that UCLA had played with ineligible players. The following season also earned an NCAA Tournament bid for Brown and the Bruins but not nearly the amount of success. Brown then stepped down that off-season to take a job coaching in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets.
Brown wouldn't stay away from college for long, taking another big time job after spending two seasons leading the Nets. Brown became the head coach for the Kansas Jayhawks beginning in 1984 and had a more successful and longer tenure in Lawrence than he had in Los Angeles.
In five seasons Brown led the Jayhawks to a 129-44 overall record, made it to the NCAA Tournament every year including a pair of Final Four appearances culminating in a National Championship at the end of the 1988 season.
It was at Kansas that the widespread influence Brown has had in the current coaching landscape really began to take shape. Current Kansas head coach Bill Self was a graduate assistant under Brown in Lawrence during the 1985-1986 season and John Calipari, who just won the 2012 NCAA Championship as head coach of Kentucky, also served as an assistant for Brown.
The coaching tree doesn't stop there as several former Kansas players that were coached by Brown took on head coaching jobs at the college level, including current Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon and Colorado coach Tad Boyle.
"The coaches who have coached with me have been the most loyal and great people I could ever imagine and they're doing unbelievable things at great spots," said Brown of his influence on the coaching in college basketball.
Despite his success at Kansas, and in the college ranks in general, Brown wouldn't coach in college again after stepping down after the national title with Kansas.
Brown will not be taking over such a prestigious program at SMU.The Mustangs have had only one winning season since 2003-2004 and have not been to the NCAA Tournament since the 1992-1993 season when they were eliminated in the first round. Last year's squad finished 13-19, including a 4-12 mark in Conference USA which put the Mustangs at second to last in the conference standings.
"I can't promise you wins and losses but I get the feeling if we prepare a lot, if we do the right things and coach kids up we're going to be able to put a good group on the court that's going to give us a chance to be successful," said
This year's team lost three players from the 2012 squad including forward Robert Nyakundi who led the team in points (14.8 pg) and rebounds (4.8 pg).
Although the SMU roster has not yet been set and practices haven't begun Brown gave some insight into how he hopes to coach the Mustangs next season during his announcement press conference.
"I want to play fast if we're better. I want long athletic kids who can guard. I can't play in multiple defenses so we'll play man-to-man," said Brown who also joked that he would need to learn to text to adapt to how recruiting has changed in his years away from the college game.
The Mustangs will also be a considerably young team with only one senior returning, London Giles who finished second on the team in points (10.0) last season.
Age might also be a concern for more than just the roster. At 71, Brown will be the second oldest coach in NCAA basketball behind 75-year-old Tevester Anderson who currently heads the program at Jackson State. Although aware of this Brown doesn't seem to be worried about his age being a factor.
"When I look in the mirror I get kind of scared but inside I feel like I could do this forever. [Coaching] has been a labor of love for me," said Brown.
Brown will be leading SMU as it makes a move into the Big East next season. The Big East is largely considered one of the top basketball conferences in the country, despite Syracuse and Pittsburgh moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I don't take this opportunity lightly. I know how important this hire was to this university," said Brown of the responsibility he has taken on in trying to revamp a program with just four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 44 years, "The competition [in the Big East] is amazing but walking around this campus if we can get a kid to visit here I can't imagine him going anywhere else."
Brown has already begun to make his presence felt at SMU, hiring former Illinois point guard (200-2004) Jerrence Howard as an assistant coach last week while also conducting meetings with individual players, some of whom it has been rumored may not remain with the team next season.