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.