The last time Larry Brown coached in Madison Square Garden, he was a dead-man-walking, the head coach of a dismal New York Knicks team that was on the fast track to nowhere.
Fired after just one disastrous season at the helm back in 2006, Brown—the only coach to win both an NCAA and NBA title—returned to the Garden on Tuesday night, leading his SMU Mustangs to a 65-59 victory over Clemson and a spot in the NIT finals.
SMU (27-9) got off to a very slow start offensively and trailed 38-26 at the break. But the Mustangs came out strong in the second half, upping their defensive intensity and giving the Tigers very few easy offensive possessions.
The Mustangs outscored the Tigers 39-21 over the final 20 minutes, snatching their first lead of the night with just over five minutes to play and closing it out down the stretch.
Clemson (23-13) looked well on the way to Thursday night’s final after the first half. They were scoring the basketball, getting good looks and shooting a high percentage from the field. But all of that quickly changed after the half, with the Tigers coming out lethargic and unable to match the Mustangs increased pressure.
With the victory, SMU advances to face the winner of Tuesday night’s game between Minnesota and Florida State for the NIT title.
Kennedy led the Mustangs with 21 points and nine rebounds.
Rod Hall led the Tigers with 18 points in the losing effort.