Should SMU really hire Larry Brown?

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
11:45
AM CT
In case you missed it this weekend, rest assured this is very much a thing: On Sunday, Larry Brown -- the only man to ever win an NCAA title and an NBA championship -- interviewed for Southern Methodist's vacant head-coaching position.

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Galloway and Company react to the reports that Hall of Famer Larry Brown agreed to become SMU's next coach.

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He wasn't the only coach interviewed. After aiming hard (and missing) at Marquette coach Buzz Williams, SMU is also looking at Williams' associate head coach, Tony Benford. But Brown's interview performance Sunday may put him in the driver's seat for the open job.

At first glance, you could imagine why SMU would be utterly thrilled with the prospect. Brown is in many ways a coaching legend, with deep ties to blueblood programs and NBA coaches and just about anyone who's anyone in the profession. He brings the namiest of coaching names and the buzz a long-dormant program such as SMU so desperately needs as it moves to the Big East -- and does its best not to get bloodied and battered in a bona fide basketball league on a nightly basis -- in 2012-13. And for Brown, the upside is simple: He gets back into coaching at a place that will allow him the time and freedom to do things his way.

The only problem with all of this? Brown's way typically rapidly involves the highway. He is a basketball journeyman of the highest and most derided order, the kind of coach for whom any job is good enough to take. If he is unsatisfied, or a better opportunity comes along, he is just as quickly willing to ditch said job. USA Today's Mike Lopresti detailed the finer points of Brown's vagabond reputation Sunday:
[+] EnlargeLarry Brown
Geoff Burke/US PresswireLarry Brown is a candidate for Southern Methodist's vacant men's basketball coaching position.
Brown is, without question, one of the premier teachers of the game of his time. But he has also tended to wander off. Not every man can say he has been head coach for 30% of the NBA teams, or 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. Somehow, Larry Brown's career, for all its accomplishment and genius, has almost always reminded us of a pit stop.

Indeed, the top comment on our news story about Brown and SMU has this dynamic exactly right, far as I can tell:
For a program struggling to get to the next level, Larry Brown isn't the answer. Dohetry [sic] was a disaster, but I think a young, rising coach like Benford would be a much better choice than Brown. You need someone in there with something to prove, instead of looking for something to do.

Therein lies the Larry Brown rub. On its face, "Larry Brown to SMU" feels like a huge get for the Mustangs. What program of SMU's stature wouldn't want to be able to say it hired Brown, right? But what looks good in the current rush of excitement may not always look good two years from now, after (and if) Brown has decided that he's no longer all that interested in raising SMU from its traditional doldrums.

You can't really blame SMU for wanting to give it a shot. But if it doesn't work out (whether in a year or two or three) and Brown leaves without having achieved much, there will be plenty of people out there saying, "I told you so." We'll see.

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