Dallas Colleges: Rod Strickland
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.
The Mustangs -- a program with one winning season since 2003-04, just 10 all-time NCAA tournament appearances (exactly one since Brown last coached in a college game in 1988), and no long-term tradition or cachet to speak of -- are in the process of moving from Conference USA to the Big East. This is a program that needs to get good quickly. It is a program that needs a splash hire, a boost to national perception, a conversation-starter. It is a program that needs to take a risk.
Larry Brown, it is safe to say, represents all of those things.
But along with that acumen and experience comes the rest of the overstuffed Brown baggage cart. He is just as legendary for his short attention span; his longest coaching tenure -- q.v. this timeline for the details -- was six years (with the 76ers), and more frequently he has left his job after two or three seasons, and often even sooner than that. He has coached 30 percent of the NBA's teams and is on the verge of taking his 13th head coaching job.
Even worse, especially for an athletics program with SMU's history, is Brown's run-ins with NCAA regulatory brass: At UCLA, a Final Four appearance was vacated, and when he left Kansas in 1988 the program was under NCAA probation.
That said, SMU appears to be working on some built-in Brown backup plans. The first is a potential coach-in-waiting deal with Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich, who was still deciding on the opportunity as of early Tuesday evening.
But according to reports, Brown's staff would also include former Illinois assistant/recruiting ace Jerrance Howard and current Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland. That's a good staff. It's also a staff that could take over on a moment's notice if Brown, now 71 years old, decides this whole "coaching basketball again" wasn't such a good idea after all.
So there are huge upsides, sure. In fact, you're looking at one right now. I'm writing about SMU basketball right this very minute. You're reading about SMU basketball. That is a massive improvement over the recent state of the program -- and by "recent" I mean "since 1993 or so" -- in and of itself.
But there are massive risks here, too. The Mustangs, it seems, have decided to take the entire package, the putative risks with the potential rewards. It could work out. It could blow up. That's the Larry Brown package, and all that comes with it.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.