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

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According to a report from ESPN.com, 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.

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.