Larry Brown: Hiring Legendary Coach Won't Turn Around SMU Program

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 1:  Head coach Larry Brown of the Charlotte Bobcats calls a play during the game against the Boston Celtics on December 1, 2009 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Celtics won 108-90.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Larry Brown coached championship teams in both college and the NBA, won nearly 75 percent of the college games he coached and earned a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Despite those impressive accolades, he won't be able to turn the SMU basketball program around.

Update: Wednesday, March 18 at 4:15 p.m. ET

The Associated Press reports a deal hasn't been reached between Brown and SMU, but the coach said his agent is expected to have further conversations with the school after Brown talked with Orsini more than once since Monday.

Update: Thursday, March 19 at 3:40 p.m. ET

Brown has officially been named the SMU head coach, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News.

After expressing his interest in the job, Brown waited while athletic director Steve Orsini sought out other options, all of whom decided against assuming the new Mustangs job. Even though Brown wasn't a terrible fallback option, he doesn't have what it takes to run a college team anymore.

Being a college basketball coach, a position Brown hasn't held in more than two decades, tends to take a heavy toll on somebody. Between recruiting trips, practices, games and all the miscellaneous events, it's a never-ending cycle of activity.

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That's a lot to ask of a 71-year-old coach. He obviously had the itch to get back into the mix, but you have to wonder if he understands exactly what he's getting himself into.

The college game has changed a lot since he was leading Kansas to a national title in 1988. Rebuilding a team that won just four conference games last season will take a Herculean effort, which is why bigger names didn't have interest in taking on the task.

Brown doesn't have as much pull as he once did with potential recruits, either. The players he will be trying to land weren't even alive when Brown was making his way up the coaching ranks at Kansas. And his final few seasons in the NBA weren't exactly memorable.

Whether you look at John Calipari from national champion Kentucky or a rising star like Shaka Smart of VCU, the coaches having a lot of success right now are those who can excite recruits and give them reason to play for their team. That's not Brown's style.

Things won't be getting any easier with SMU's move to the Big East. If the Mustangs couldn't remain competitive in Conference USA, it's hard to imagine Brown having a big enough impact for them to become a threat in one of the nation's premier conferences.

Brown will hold down the fort and make the team more fundamentally strong, but it takes a whole lot more than that to build a successful college basketball team.

If SMU will be content with mediocrity—which would actually be a minor improvement—Brown should provide it. Just don't expect him to turn the program into a powerhouse.


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