The Best Coach in Texas Works for SMU

Larry Brown on March Madness, Allen Iverson, and being an eyewear trendsetter.
Thu February 27, 2014 10:00 am
SMU head coach Larry Brown encourages his team during the first half of SMU's 64–55 victory over Connecticut, on February 23, 2014.
AP Photo | Fred Beckham

Of all the college coaches in Texas—football, basketball, baseball—the most accomplished works for Southern Methodist University. Larry Brown is one of five active coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame and the only one to ever win both an NCAA championship and an NBA title (with the University of Kansas and the Detroit Pistons, respectively). In just his second season, the 73-year-old Brooklyn native has vaulted the Mustangs back into the AP poll (the 22-6 team is ranked 23), filling the newly renovated (and beer-concessioned) Moody Coliseum with capacity crowds and highly ranked recruits.

It’s Brown’s first college job since leaving Kansas for the San Antonio Spurs in 1988, and with wins over UConn (twice), Memphis, and Cincinnati, he has the Mustangs comfortably positioned for their first NCAA men’s basketball tournament appearance since 1993. Given the realities of the American Athletic Conference (which spun out of the hoops-centric Big East) and the size of the College Football Playoff (4 teams) versus March Madness (68 teams), you might even say that sometime in the next five years, SMU is more likely to win a national championship in basketball than in football.

JASON COHEN: Your last job, with the Charlotte Bobcats, was your seventh in the NBA since leaving Kansas. How did you end up back at college?

LARRY BROWN: I tried retirement. I lived in Villanova [outside Philadelphia, where Brown had previously coached the 76ers] and after about a week, I was going to Villanova’s practices. [Wildcats coach] Jay Wright was kind enough to let me go. I’d go to Maryland because [former Texas A&M coach] Mark Turgeon, who played for me and coached with me at Kansas, was there. Kansas and Kentucky invited me to visit, because both [KU coach Bill Self and UK coach John

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