Dallas Colleges: Southern Methodist Mustangs

Larry Brown leads SMU to NIT final

April, 2, 2014
NEW YORK -- Larry Brown went 23-59 in his one season coaching the New York Knicks.

Things are going a lot better at Southern Methodist.

The Mustangs have now won 27 games this season -- one off the school record -- in only Brown’s second year at the helm. And their latest victory came in a place he knows well: Madison Square Garden.

[+] EnlargeLarry Brown
AP Photo/Sharon EllmanFormer Knicks coach Larry Brown led SMU to the NIT finals.
SMU trailed by 13 early in the second half Tuesday, and didn’t take its first lead until just more than five minutes remained. But once Brown’s crew had the lead, they never relinquished it, beating Clemson 65-59 to advance to the NIT championship game.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Brown said. “I think the first half, Clemson did about as well as any team that we played against. They controlled the tempo, they had much more energy than us, they executed great. And we didn’t have much to say at halftime, except we had to match their energy and possibly play harder than them. I thought it was the best half we played all year.”

It was indeed a tale of two halves. Clemson led 38-26 at the break, thanks to 56 percent shooting from the field. That included making 6-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc, against an SMU team ranked seventh in the nation in defensive field-goal percentage.

The Mustangs picked up the intensity in the second half. And the Tigers shot just 6-for-25 overall and 2-for-11 from long range.

“We just did what we usually do,” SMU forward Sterling Brown said. “We just turned it up a little more.”

Fellow forward Markus Kennedy was the player of the game, with 21 points and nine rebounds. Point guard Nic Moore chipped in 13 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Mustangs, who will play Minnesota in the title game Thursday.

The 73-year-old Brown has nothing to prove. He remains the only coach to win both an NCAA championship and an NBA title, and already has the Basketball Hall of Fame on his résumé. But he has done a remarkable job rejuvenating SMU in short order.

The Mustangs have not made the NCAA tournament since 1993, but just missed this year, the first team left out of the field.

Instead, SMU was awarded one of four No. 1 seeds in the NIT. And four wins later, it has reached the final.

“We haven’t had a lot of nice things happen at SMU for a long, long time,” Brown said. “To be in this environment, playing in this championship in this special building, with our fans so supportive, that’s the most special moment we’ve all had I think since we’ve been there.”

Brown’s brief stint with the Knicks was eight years ago now. But with the Brooklyn native back in town, he was asked to share some memories after the game.

“I love this place,” Brown said. “I’m not happy with the job I did with the Knicks, but I grew up loving the Knicks and loving the Garden, and I wanted our guys to experience [it].”

He was also asked about current Knicks coach Mike Woodson, a former assistant and close friend. Woodson was at the game Tuesday, sitting behind the SMU bench.

“I talk to him every day. He’s a big part of my life,” Brown said. “He’s gone through hell, and they got it going. Last I looked they’re right there with a chance to make the playoffs, and I’m thrilled for him.”

As it happens, the Knicks will host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at the Garden, in between the NIT semifinals and title game. And it sounds like the former Knicks coach may attend.

“I don’t know if they’ll let me in the Garden tomorrow night,” Brown said, chuckling. “I’ve got a night off. I don’t know -- I’ll either go see Les Mis or the Knicks.”

Whatever Brown decides to do Wednesday, he’ll be back here one night later, with a chance to add another championship to his collection.

W2W4: The NIT semifinals

April, 1, 2014
Larry BrownAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesLarry Brown returns to the Garden for the NIT semifinals.
NEW YORK -- Here's what to watch for in Tuesday's semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. ET, and you can watch the games on ESPN2.

HOME SWEET HOME: Brooklyn native and former Knicks coach Larry Brown returns to the Garden and should receive a warm welcome.

The 73-year-old Hall of Famer has rejuvenated the Southern Methodist basketball program in just two years at the helm. The Mustangs were 13-19 in 2011-12, prior to Brown's arrival. This season they have won 26 games, the second-most in school history.

SMU was the first team left out of the NCAA tournament field, and received one of four No. 1 seeds in the NIT.

When asked last week about returning to New York, Brown said, “I don’t look at it like that, for me. For me, for our kids to have an opportunity to keep playing is great.

"I’m happy for our team, I’m thrilled for our program. After the disappointment we had [Selection Sunday], this is a privilege to still be playing.”

GAME 1: SMU (26-9, 12-6 AAC) will play No. 3 seed Clemson (23-12, 10-8 ACC) in the first semifinal. The Mustangs finished tied for third in the American Athletic Conference with Final Four participant UConn, and beat the Huskies twice in the regular season. The Tigers, in their fourth year under coach Brad Brownell, finished sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Their best win of the season was a 72-59 triumph over Duke at home on Jan. 11.

Two players average in double figures for SMU -- sophomore point guard Nic Moore (13.5 PPG, 4.9 APG) and sophomore forward Markus Kennedy (12.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG). Clemson has just one double-figure scorer -- junior forward K.J. McDaniels (17.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG). McDaniels was also the leading shot-blocker in the ACC (2.8 BPG).

The Mustangs are 18th in Division I in offensive field goal percentage (48.4), and seventh in defensive field goal percentage (38.2) -- quite a combination! The Tigers aren't nearly as good offensively, ranking 265th (42.4). But they are almost as good defensively, ranking 14th (39.3).

GAME 2: A pair of No. 1 seeds, Minnesota (23-13, 8-10 Big Ten) and Florida State (22-13, 9-9 ACC), will meet in the second semifinal, tipping off at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET. The Golden Gophers, in their first year under coach Richard Pitino (Rick's son), finished seventh in the Big Ten. The Seminoles, in their 12th year under coach Leonard Hamilton, finished tied for seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

These two teams met back on Dec. 3 in Minneapolis, with Minnesota winning 71-61. But the Golden Gophers' leading rebounder, junior center Elliott Eliason (5.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG), is likely out for this game due to an ankle injury, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Three players average in double figures for Minnesota -- junior guard Andre Hollins (13.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG), senior guard Austin Hollins (12.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) and junior guard DeAndre Mathieu (11.8 PPG, 4.1 APG).

Three players average in double figures for Florida State, as well -- sophomore guard Aaron Thomas (14.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG), senior guard Ian Miller (13.7 PPG, 2.9 APG) and senior forward Okaro White (13.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG).

The Seminoles also stack up very well on both sides, ranking 49th in Division I in offensive field goal percentage (46.8) and 25th in defensive field goal percentage (39.9). The Golden Gophers trail significantly in both categories, ranking 142nd offensively (44.8) and 116th defensively (42.5).

Preview video: SMU at Baylor

September, 2, 2012
David Ubben offers up some thoughts on what to expect and what to look for in Baylor's season opener against SMU (6:30 p.m. ET).

SMU's path sure to be fascinating

May, 11, 2012
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.

Larry Brown: Gamble worth taking at SMU?

April, 18, 2012
It is not at all difficult to figure out why the Southern Methodist University men's basketball program wants to hire Larry Brown, and they most likely will, as reported Tuesday afternoon by ESPN.com's Jason King.

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.

[+] EnlargeLarry Brown
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesLarry Brown can certainly coach -- but rarely sticks around anywhere for very long.
Brown is something like a legend in the game, the only coach ever to win both a national title and an NBA championship. His legacy in the game, his sheer reach, extends well beyond his own former programs: Both Kansas coach Bill Self and Kentucky coach John Calipari -- the two men in charge of your 2012 national runner-up and champion, respectively -- consider Brown a mentor. Good luck finding someone to tell you this man can't coach the game. Because he really, really can.

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.

Should SMU really hire Larry Brown?

April, 17, 2012
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.

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

Listen Listen
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.

Let's chat about colleges at 1 p.m.!

December, 3, 2009
Join me for a chat at 1 p.m. as we discuss the Big 12 championship game, TCU, SMU, North Texas and anything else on your mind.

You can go ahead and post some questions by clicking here.

Key plays help TCU beat SMU, 60-53

December, 2, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- TCU was able to make some key plays late to hang on and beat SMU, 60-53.

The Mustangs cut a 12-point deficit in the second half to one and got the ball with 43 seconds left off a TCU turnover. But the Mustangs missed two free throws and on the second miss were whistled for over the back. That put TCU at the free throw line and they made both to go up by three.

With 28 seconds left on the ensuing possession, TCU's Ronnie Moss blocked a shot and TCU then convered two more free throws to essentially ice the game.

TCU's Edvinas Ruzgas led all scorers with 22. Zvonko Buljan added 14 points and nine rebounds and Moss also had 14.

SMU's top scorer was Derek Williams, who had 16 points. Mouhammad Faye had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

TCU picked up the DFW Duel trophy for winning the game for the second consecutive season.

SMU making furious comeback

December, 2, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- The small, but loud crowd at Moody Coliseum has seen SMU claw back to make it a one-point game against TCU with 3:02 left.

SMU has been more aggressive on defense and is making baskets in transition. It helps too, that TCU has gone a bit cold from the field.

Who can make the plays in the final few minutes?

TCU with 12-4 run to open second half

December, 2, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- TCU came out with a lot more energy on the defensive end and has disrupted SMU's flow.

The Frogs, down by 5 at the half, have gone on a 12-4 run in the first four minutes of the second half and lead 35-32.

We'll see if SMU can regroup.

SMU 28, TCU 23 at the half

December, 2, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- SMU led by as many as 11 in the first half and sprinted to the locker room with a 28-23 lead.

Mouhammad Faye leads SMU with nine points and six rebounds. TCU's Edvinas Ruzgas has 10 points.

It took both teams some time to get going, but the last eight minutes of the first half produced some exciting moments. We should be set up for an entertaining second half.

Quick 8-0 has SMU on top

December, 2, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- SMU, taking advantage of a few TCU turnovers, has just completed a 8-0 run with 5:47 left and lead 22-13.

TCU was forced to call timeout to try to stop the momentum. The Mustangs have moved the ball around well and managed to get some high-percentage shots inside the paint. And TCU has made bad passes and traveled to turn balls over.

SMU's run has the crowd into it here at Moody Coliseum.

Is SMU June Jones' final job?

December, 1, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK -- The 56-year-old SMU head coach said "most likely" on Tuesday. Jones didn't say he'd be at SMU forever. But it was clear on Tuesday that he likes it on the Hilltop and plans on staying awhile.

Jones, who recently agreed to a contract extension that takes him through the 2014 season, talked about leaving Hawaii for SMU before the 2008 season because he wanted a new challenge.

"I just kind of needed to be reinvigorated again," Jones said. "I don't think I'll ever do this again. This will most likely be my last job unless some right situation came up that would appeal to me. But I would think that's a hard thing to do."

Jones' SMU team was 7-5 this season and is going to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, the program's first bowl game since 1984, when they beat Notre Dame in the Aloha Bowl.

SMU AD: 'There's life after death'

December, 1, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK -- SMU celebrated its first bowl invitation in 25 years in style on Monday.

Despite the gray, cold weather outside, it was a festive, Hawaiian-themed event inside the student center on campus. President Gerald Turner, athletic director Steve Orsini and coach June Jones, wearing leis, walked onto the stage to the fight song. Orsini officially accepted an invitation to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24, sending a few hundred folks, including fans, boosters, administrators, players, cheerleaders and band members into wild applause.

"We've proven there's life after death," Orsini said.

Jones said he was most excited about taking his team to Pearl Harbor before the game. It was something he had planned with special teams coach and longtime friend Frank Gansz, who passed away before the season started at the age of 70 after complications from knee-replacement surgery.

"That will be special when we load up and go to Pearl Harbor," Jones said.

Jones added the bowl game gives SMU some respect. It should also help with recruiting, something Jones and his coaches are focused on even as they prepare for the bowl game. Jones said it was easy for coaches to use the fact that SMU wasn't winning or playing in bowl games against them.

"They'd say, 'Why do you want to go there? They won't win. They haven't been to a bowl,'" Jones said. "They can't say that now."

Jones said the program can focus on more long-term goals.

"We'll start talking about winning championships now," Jones said. "We're in the dance now. The next step is to take it to the next level. I think we're probably two seasons away from really challenging to get to build it to where TCU has gotten it, Boise has gotten it. But we can get there. This is a great campus, great place to play football."

SMU will start practice on Dec. 7, a date that Jones pointed out was fitting since they'll visit Pearl Harbor later in the month.

Hawaii theme at SMU news conference

December, 1, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK -- We haven't started the news conference yet, but it looks like a little bit of Hawaii in the student center at SMU, complete with Hawaiian music playing on the speaker system.

SMU (7-5) is set to announce that they will play in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24. It's the program's first bowl game since 1984, when they beat Notre Dame in the Aloha Bowl. This is SMU's first seven-win season in 25 years.

Coach June Jones, who came to SMU from Hawaii, will be at the press conference along with Steve Orsini, SMU's athletic director. We'll update you when we start, but the cheerleaders and part of the band are here along with a nice group of fans and boosters. It's quite festive.