larry-brown

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 first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.