Published January 13, 2015
Larry Brown has added some depth to the roster for his second season at SMU.
After the five starters each played more than 32 minutes a game in Brown's debut with the Mustangs, they all return with some needed help. There are three transfer players now eligible after having to sit out last season, including likely starting point guard Nic Moore and big man Markus Kennedy, along with a junior college center and a highly touted group of freshmen.
"We didn't have a true point guard, we didn't have a small forward, we didn't have a true center, then you had no bench, so that impacted everybody," Brown said.
There is still one very important variable missing.
"We don't have a culture of winning," Brown said. "You can talk about all the best recruits, good transfers and stuff like that, but the great programs have a culture of winning, they know what it takes to be successful, they approach every practice, and every game and every possession with a different mindset. We haven't figured that one out yet."
That is still the biggest challenge for the 73-year-old Brown, the Hall of Fame coach who returned to college a quarter century after leading Kansas to an NCAA title.
SMU, preparing for the new American Athletic Conference instead of the Big East as originally planned, went 15-17 in Brown's first season while still in Conference USA.
The Mustangs, who haven't been to the NCAA tournament in two decades, are now in a league with defending national champion Louisville and 2011 champ Connecticut, the first opponent in renovated Moody Coliseum on Jan. 4.
"We've got to have a winner's mentality, and not a 15-17 mentality," Brown said.
Here are five things to know for the Mustangs, who open their second season under Brown on Nov. 8 against TCU at the Dallas Mavericks' home arena:
DIFFERENT ROLES: Even with all five starters back, there will likely be some changes in the lineup. Brown said a big challenge having five starters who played so much last season is "how does everybody accept their role" that now might be significantly different. Brown said that is good because there is competition for positions. He said the team has to build some chemistry "where we all do things to make others better, and the minutes will take care of itself."
DOUBLE-DIGIT SCORERS: Three returning players averaged double-figure scoring last season, led by senior guard Nick Russell and junior guard Jalen Jones with 14 points a game. Russell, one of only two seniors on the roster and the team leader with 36 minutes per game, had a team-high 138 assists. Jones was the top rebounder at 7.7 per game. The other double-digit scorer was guard Ryan Manuel with 12.1 points a game.
THE TRANSFERS: Moore sat out last season after transferring from Illinois State, where as a freshman he played for SMU associate head coach Tim Jankovich. Guard Crandall Head spent two seasons at Illinois before coming to SMU, and the 6-9 Kennedy played as a freshman at Villanova. The big junior college addition is 6-11 center Yanick Moreira who Brown said is "going to be really hard to stop."
MOODY MAKEOVER: SMU has been playing home games at Moody Coliseum since 1956. When the Mustangs get back in the building in January, it will look much different after a $47 million expansion and renovation. There will be new premium seating and technology improvements, including new video boards, scoreboards and sound system. While the work is being completed this fall, the Mustangs will play their non-conference home games in Garland, about a 25-minute drive from campus.
IMPRESSIVE GUEST LIST: Larry Brown has made a lot of friends in four decades of coaching, including his record nine NBA jobs. And many stop by to visit him. Allen Iverson, the 11-time All-Star who is retiring from the NBA, came by in mid-October to see his old coach and spoke to the SMU players. Among others who have visited since practice began were former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson and Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton.