HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Larry Brown gets to "go back" more than most people. When your Hall of Fame career includes a record nine NBA jobs as well as stints at two of most prominent college programs in the nation, there are a lot of places to see old friends.
There's only one hometown, though, and Brown had his SMU team in his for a game on Long Island.
"It's kind of neat," Brown said Saturday morning at the Mustangs' shootaround for that afternoon's game at Hofstra. "I played high school football here on this campus. I've been here my whole life. I loved living on Long Island and loved being from Long Beach."
Long Beach was one of the towns that sustained devastating losses when Superstorm Sandy struck Long Island last month. It's expected the community may not be back normal in terms of its economy until the middle of 2013.
Brown is Long Beach's most famous sports product but he is second banana on the overall list behind filmmaker-comedian Billy Crystal.
"I spoke to Billy two days ago when he was in New York. He's got a film coming out," Brown said. "Billy talked about if there was anything we can do to help. I think Billy has people trying to figure out a way to raise money."
Brown, who has a summer residence on the East End of Long Island, said he received calls from people about Long Beach as the storm hit.
"Living in Dallas you don't realize how devastating it was," he said.
To ease the tenor of the conversation Brown was asked about his days as a football player.
"I was great," he said with his trademark deadpan. "They ask me 'Did I have a leather helmet?' Yeah. I remember I had a facemask, and I thought facemasks were for when the coaches pulled you around."
Things have changed in the coaching world since then. Things are changing around SMU's new conference at a pace that's hard to keep up with.
SMU, a member of Conference USA, will begin play in the Big East next season.
"I don't know what conferences are like anymore until I pick up the paper," Brown said. "I don't know what's going on. I'm really concerned about kids. Our school is a difficult school academically. It is a challenge for anybody. Now we go to Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, St. John's, Georgetown. That's very difficult for a kid. I don't even know where it's going."
Brown knows where it started, though. He was close with Dave Gavitt, the man who founded the Big East and led it to the top of the college basketball world within a decade of existence.
"To me it's sad," Brown said of the Big East losing so many of the schools that made it a powerhouse so quickly. "I was with Dave Gavitt with the 1980 Olympic team that didn't get to go. I know the pride he had in putting that league together. Even though you still have great schools with great tradition. I don't know. I can't get a handle on what's going on. It's a lot of money and most comes from football but it seems to me you have to worry about kids going to class, to have a chance at being successful. It's tough.
"We will have played seven games in 14 days after today," Brown said, "then we go to finals. It's not easy for these kids with their schedules, study halls, tutors, all the responsibility they have. I hope people don't forget about them."