April 19, 2012
DALLAS (AP) -- Larry Brown is returning to college to get back into coaching.
The 71-year-old Hall of Fame coach was hired Thursday at SMU. It is his first college job in nearly a quarter century, and comes with a struggling program that is headed to the Big East after next season.
"It's a challenge like everything. The greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity," Brown told The Associated Press by phone from his home in Philadelphia.
Brown, the only coach to win both an NBA championship and NCAA title, hasn't coached since leaving the Charlotte Bobcats in December 2010 after the NBA's team's 9-19 start. His contract there was to run through the end of the current season.
SMU hasn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1988, the year Brown led Kansas to the national championship in his last season as a college coach.
"It's not like I haven't been involved. I live in Villanova, I've been to Kentucky's practices the last two years, Kansas practices, Maryland's practices and Villanova. I've probably seen them practice 50 times a year," Brown said when asked about returning to the college level.
"People have to understand, you're coaching college kids in the NBA, so I've found out kids want to be taught, they want to be coached, they want to get better," he said. "I really think the fact that I've had a background in both areas is going to help me."
The Mustangs fired Matt Doherty last month after six seasons.
"Larry Brown is one of the top coaches in the history of the game," said SMU athletic director Steve Orsini. "He is a legend and has made every team he has ever coached a winner. As we transition into the nation's top basketball conference, the Big East, his leadership will be invaluable."
Details of Brown's deal, including the length of the contract, weren't released by the private school. Brown said he wasn't ready to discuss who his assistant coaches would be. He said he has had plenty of inquiries about joining his staff.
"That's the hardest thing, I think," he said. "I don't have enough jobs to help people that have been great to me. It's been pretty painful in that respect."
SMU will be Brown's 14th job in a four-decade coaching career.
Brown's first coaching job was at Davidson in 1972, though he didn't coach a game there before going to the ABA and then the NBA. He coached at UCLA (1979-81) and Kansas (1983-88) and was the coach of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that had a disappointing bronze-medal finish.
"We're talking about a Hall of Fame coach that's won both an NCAA and NBA championship and is the only coach to ever do so," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who just won the NCAA championship and was an assistant under Brown at Kansas from 1983-85. "He's been a friend and mentor for years and I look forward to watching him take SMU to new heights."
SMU last went to the NCAA tournament in 1993, five years after beating Notre Dame in a first-round game.
Doherty was fired March 13 with one year left on the deal for the former North Carolina coach and player after he went 80-109 in six seasons. The Mustangs lost 11 of their last 14 games, including a 47-28 home loss to UAB on Feb. 15.
SMU has plans for a $40 million renovation of Moody Coliseum and built a new practice facility during Doherty's stint.
The hiring of Brown came as SMU's search was going into its sixth week. Among other candidates the Mustangs talked with were Marquette's Buzz Williams, Long Beach State's Dan Monson and Rick Majerus from Saint Louis.
Brown visited the SMU campus Monday and Tuesday, long after showing interest in the job.
"I was confident it was going to get done, I had phenomenal visit there. The people treated me great," he said. "(SMU football coach) June Jones was an advocate, he's been trying to help me for a month, not give up and to understand this is a great place for me and I never doubted that."
Brown has a reputation for impressive turnarounds and often messy departures from teams. When Michael Jordan hired him in Charlotte, Brown had been out of coaching for two years following a 23-59 mark in his only season with the New York Knicks.
Brown has held a record nine NBA jobs. He was 1,098-904 (.548 winning percentage) with Denver, New Jersey, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana, Philadelphia, Detroit, the Knicks and Charlotte. He took all of those teams but New York to the playoffs. Add in his four seasons coaching in the ABA, and his 1,327 victories put him nine shy from passing Don Nelson for the most all-time wins.
Brown led Detroit to an NBA championship in 2004, and the Pistons got back to the finals in 2005 before losing to San Antonio in seven games.
Even during that second Eastern Conference championship season in Detroit, reports linked Brown to jobs in New York, Los Angeles and Denver. The Cleveland Cavaliers had talked with Brown about becoming their president of basketball operations after getting permission from the Pistons.
Within weeks after that season ended, Brown and the Pistons reached a settlement on the final three years of his contract that left him free to coach another team. He then went to the Knicks.
His longest tenure with any team was six seasons with Philadelphia. He left the 76ers with two years left on his contract to go to Detroit.
Brown was 135-44 in five seasons at Kansas, but the Jayhawks were banned from the 1989 NCAA tournament after he left because of recruiting violations. He was 42-17 at UCLA, whose runner-up finish in the 1980 NCAA tournament was later vacated by the NCAA.