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Larry Brown to SMU isn’t as bad as everyone is making it out to be

Apr 17, 2012, 5:47 PM EDT


According to a report from, Larry Brown has officially agreed to become the next head coach of the SMU Mustangs.

Current Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich has been offered a job as the “coach-in-waiting”, while the rest of Brown’s staff will be made up by super-recruiter Jerrance Howard (who cut his teeth as an assistant on Bruce Weber’s Illinois staff) and Rod Strickland (an assistant at Kentucky).

As rumors of this hiring have circulated over the last month, the critics have come out in abundance. Rightfully so. As Mike LoPresti of USA Today points out, “he has been head coach for 30% of the NBA teams [and] held the position for 13 pro or college teams in all four time zones of the U.S. mainland. Matter of fact, this is the 40th anniversary of him resigning at Davidson — without coaching a game.” In simple terms, Brown is THE basketball nomad.

As SMU’s coaching search was going on, there were those that believed that Brown was still trying to work his way into the Portland Trail Blazer’s front office. He’s 71 years old. He hasn’t coached in college since he led Kansas to the 1988 National Title game. He can hardly be considered a college coach anymore.

And that’s just a few of the reasons why this hire is so unpopular. The biggest? SMU seems to be hiring a head coach that is looking for something to do when the current state of their program means they need a coach with something to prove.

But it’s the current state of their program that makes me believe this hire is actually a good thing.

SMU went 13-19 last season, and that doesn’t even give you the accurate feel for how bad they were. After managing just 39 points in a loss to UAB, the Mustangs mustered just 42 points over their next three halves of basketball, ironically finishing with exactly 14 points in all three. That’s downright atrocious.

Should I mention that their best player is graduating?

SMU is in for a rude awakening when they make their way to the Big East, but by hiring Brown, they are making themselves notable. The Mustangs have a buzz about them, and even if the majority of the talking heads are saying that this move is dumb, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Look, SMU has a coach-in-waiting in Jankovich that is a Bill Self protoge and close with Brown. He has built a pretty good program at Illinois State. They’ve hired an assistant with NBA experience in Strickland and another that is a good enough recruiter to bring some talent into the program. Those three right there are the framework for the future. Brown is nothing but a short-term fix to put SMU in the headlines.

If you want to make the argument that Brown isn’t cut out for running a college program, I won’t disagree with you. He’s 71 and hasn’t had to worry about recruiting in more than two decades. You think he’s going to be spending the entire month of July on the road?

That said, Brown is still a sound basketball mind that should be able to coach up the players that SMU puts on the court. That’s all that he is going to have to do for the next year or two, until he decides that he’s ready to move on to his next college hoops gig.

That’s when Jankovich and company take over.

Is it the perfect fit? Is it the best case scenario?

Probably not. All you have to do is look at the number of people that already turned down the SMU job.

But the situation is no where near as dire as everyone else will tell you.

SMU isn’t going to be winning anytime soon. They might as well lose with a hire that will make headlines while bringing in a staff to build the program’s foundation.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

  1. hay1111 - Apr 17, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    He cant just get away.

  2. jumbossportsblog - Apr 17, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Reblogged this on jumbossportsblog.

  3. metroplexfrog - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    Good luck with that hire, SMU.

  4. imforbigblue - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Why would rod leave UK to go to this crappy school to coach for this has been?

  5. florida727 - Apr 18, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    This is nothing more than a “gimmick hire”. How can this guy possibly relate to 18-21 year olds? If he’d been in the college game all along, fine, no problem. But he hasn’t. He’s been away from the college game longer than his players HAVE BEEN ALIVE. And how can this possibly be a good career move for Strickland? If HE were the “coach-in-waiting”, okay, I could get that. But being groomed by Calipari at a high-profile program like Kentucky v. being an assistant to Brown at a lower-profile program where he’ll likely never be the head coach? That one I definitely don’t get. Rod, who’d you p*ss off at UK?

  6. pike573 - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Great hire for SMU
    1) Doormat program with no buzz… how many articles had you seen on SMU bball before this? Hopefully helps with recruiting.
    2) LB can coach. This guy has NBA and NCAA titles. Get the right kids and they will listen and he will coach them up.

    As for Strickland…
    1) He’s a special assistant at UK not a coach. Cal has his full allotment of coaches and no place for Strickland.
    2) And what if Rod wants to coach at the NBA level? LB leaves to take a front office job, and guess who probably comes along… it’s not about this job, it’s about the next job…

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