Larry Brown Is Turning SMU Into a Contender, Haters Be Damned

Larry Brown Is Turning SMU Into a Contender, Haters Be Damned
Mark Graham

ESPN Dallas' Jean-Jacques Taylor has a glowing profile of SMU men's basketball coach Larry Brown.

Brown, Taylor explains, has built a recruiting pipeline that's already funneling top local talent (Kimball's Keith Frazier, Prime Prep's Emmanuel Mudiay) to the Mustangs. He's helped score a TV contract with ESPN. He's put together a team that can hold its own against perennial Top 25s like Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati and seems well on his way to the goal of transforming SMU from a perennial also-ran into a national power.

"All Brown has ever done is win," Taylor concludes. "And he'll do it at SMU, just like he's done everywhere else."

Taylor's complete lack of equivocation sets his piece apart, but Brown has been the subject of several such profiles in recent months, particularly since SMU pulled off its upset of No. 17 UConn. USA Today declared that Brown's "jigsaw pieces are falling into place." Dime declared that "there is something brewing down in Dallas, Tex., and Larry Brown has the right recipe." The Dallas Morning News has all but slotted them into their first NCAA tournament berth in 20 years.

It wasn't always such. Let's rewind 21 months to when SMU announced Brown's hire. CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel dismissed it as an attention grab. Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner labeled it "preposterous." And Jean-Jacques Taylor -- the same one who just wrote the glowing profile -- wondered how then-athletic director Steve Orsini "screwed up this hire so badly."

Taylor continues:

Don't forget, Brown hasn't coached a college basketball team since 1988.

Woo-hoo! Hip, hip hooray!

Surely that's what SMU alums and Dallas Independent School District coaches must be saying, as well as the area's big-time recruits. Maybe their dads are hyped, but most of the kids Brown will be recruiting probably don't know anything about his contribution to basketball -- unless they've figured out he's the coach who prompted Allen Iverson's famous "we're talking 'bout practice" rant.

All you can do is shake your head.

For the record, SMU's search for a new head coach was pretty awful by any objective standard. Orsini whiffed on several potential candidates before Brown practically begged to come on board. Also, Brown is old and has a tendency to leave jobs after two or three seasons.

But man were Taylor and those other pundits wrong about this one. It's weird, too, to wonder how anyone could have seen the hire of a man of Brown's basketball pedigree -- future Hall of Famer, the only coach ever to win both an NCAA and NBA title -- as anything other than a coup for the Mustangs.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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