SMU's path sure to be fascinating

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
3:00
PM CT
ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers has the story:
Former Illinois shooting guard Crandall Head committed to SMU on Thursday. [...] Head said his relationship with SMU assistant Jerrance Howard, who also recruited Head to Illinois, was the main reason for his commitment.

"He's a great friend. He's like a brother to me," Head said of Howard. "Everything he told me about SMU was true. Coach (Larry) Brown is great to be around. The coaching staff was pretty good. The facilities they're working on look great. They have some great players coming in. I got a good look at everything.

What does this mean? Needless to say, SMU basketball fans -- y'all are out there, right? -- aren't going to suddenly leap head over heels at the arrival of Crandall Head in 2013-14. Head averaged 1.0 points, 0.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 9.2 minutes in nine games in his sophomore season, which was cut short in December when he left the team. This is not a major impact player, at least not as far as we can tell right now.

But it is an interesting development. Head was obviously candid about his feelings toward Jerrance Howard, a highly regarded recruiter in the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago specifically. Howard is one piece of newly hired SMU coach Larry Brown's rather excellent staff, which also includes former Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich in a coach-in-waiting position and former Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland. (Update: Actually, Strickland wasn't hired; instead Brown nabbed Ulric Maligi, the Houston assistant who landed two top 30 recruits, Danual House and Chicken Knowles, in the class of 2012. Apologies for the mixup.) That staff's challenge is clear: Branch out far and wide, get as many good players as possible to consider SMU and, whether through the transfer process or good old-fashioned recruiting, get them to consider a long-dormant program they may have never otherwise heard of.

Which is hard enough on its own. It will no doubt be made even more difficult by Brown's reputation. College players will surely have respect for a coach who bested the Lakers with Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace and helped make Allen Iverson an NBA MVP*, but they will also know -- because other people will surely tell them -- that Brown has a noted proclivity for leaving jobs early and often. So not only do Howard & Co. have to lay a groundwork for recruiting that doesn't already exist at SMU, they need to do so before Brown decides he's had enough fun with his latest coaching adventure.

Transfers are a good place to start, but they can't be the entire strategy. Or maybe they can? That's the point here: SMU's trajectory into the Big East, under Brown, with Howard and the rest of that staff, is going to be utterly fascinating to watch. How quickly, with a legendary coach and a great staff, can a few men bring a long-forgotten basketball program into relevance? And how? And if/when the players do arrive, can Brown still work his coach-'em-up magic?

I do not know the answers to these questions, but it will be thoroughly interesting to watch them unfold.

*And without caring about practice (not a game, NOT a game, we talkin' 'bout practice) to boot. I still don't understand how Iverson was so good, and I fear I never will. What a freak of nature.

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