Dallas Colleges: Southern Methodist Mustangs
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.
|Galloway and Company react to the reports that Hall of Famer Larry Brown agreed to become SMU's next coach.
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:
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.
You can go ahead and post some questions by clicking here.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Honolulu Advertiser says SMU will formally accept the bid at that time to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.
SMU is 7-5 and is ending a 25-year bowl drought. The last time the Mustangs played in a bowl, SMU beat Notre Dame in the Aloha Bowl in 1984. That was also the last time the program had seven wins. SMU coach June Jones, who came from Hawaii, has made going a bowl game (and going to Hawaii for the postseason) a goal all year.
We'll have more from the press conference tomorrow.
* We've already talked plenty about the Longhorns, but they will face a Nebraska team that did win its final game of the season (against Colorado). I still can't get Colt McCoy's night out of my mind. The guy was incredible. Tim Tebow had a nice game for Florida on Saturday, but McCoy has a great chance to win the Heisman Trophy. Let's see what he can do at Cowboys Stadium next Saturday.
* What happened to Oklahoma State? The Sooners, no matter how beat up they may be, are very tough in Norman. But the Cowboys' total of 109 yards of offense is still shocking. Oklahoma State was 0-for-14 on third downs. Wow. Zac Robinson had just 44 yards passing. Give the Sooners defense some credit. They were fired up and ready and it allows Oklahoma to finish the season on a better note. For OSU, it means no BCS bowl.
* The good news for OSU fans: The cons0lation prize of the Cotton Bowl isn't bad. There's little doubt they'll end up at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and bowl officials expect OSU fans to buy up plenty of tickets.
* Ryan Broyles had 103 yards on nine catches, his fifth game of 100 or more yards receiving for the Sooners.
* It says something about how good TCU is that they could have a 30-10 lead at the half and everyone -- fans, media, players and coaches -- could see they weren't in sync. But that all changed in the fourth quarter and the Frogs, behind another solid performance by quarterback Andy Dalton and two interception returns for touchdowns by an opportune defense.
* TCU coach Gary Patterson said after the game that his team can play with anybody. I believe it. They have an offense that can score points to go along with the solid defense. The Fiesta Bowl still looks like the most likely opportunity, but nothing can be decided until the championship games are played. I can tell you that I talked to at least one official from the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta and they were not worried about TCU's ability to travel to the game. The Fiesta has a good history with non-BCS teams, including Utah and Boise State.
* Consider that TCU played in only two games that were decided by 7 or fewer points. Both were on the road and in bad weather. And TCU got the job done when it counted in both of them.
* Don't underestimate the importance of SMU winning seven games. Sure, they had the bowl bid pretty much locked up before the game. But now it's automatic and they can talk about a winning season, their first since 1984. Now that June Jones has knocked over that imaginary wall that extended back to the death penalty, SMU should only get better. This is a huge step for that program.
* That should be an interesting meeting between North Texas coach Todd Dodge and AD Rick Villareal this week. A month ago, I thought Dodge was probably fine. But the team won just two games this season and they are moving into a new stadium in 2011. We'll see if UNT will be patient and give Dodge another season or if they're ready to make a change. Losing to Arkansas State, though they did make a fourth-quarter comeback to make it close, didn't help.
* Baylor gave Texas Tech all they wanted on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium. It was a nice crowd on hand -- 71,964 -- and they saw an entertaining game. The Bears didn't win their second conference game of the season, but they never did quit despite a tough season with injuries. Art Briles is doing a good job there and the Bears will get better. It would have been interesting to see what might have happened had Robert Griffin not gotten injured. Oh well.
* Texas Tech quietly put together another solid season. It wasn't what some fans expected, but 8-4 with the distractions they had at times this season is good. They'll likely go to San Antonio for the Valero Alamo Bowl and should have some momentum, winning three of their last four games.
* I like Taylor Potts at quarterback. I know Saturday wasn't his best game -- the offense averaging 38 points per game didn't do as much as expected, -- but he's a hard-nosed player and looks like a leader to me. And he's got another year of eligibility.
* Briles said he would have gone for two if the Bears had scored to make it a one-point game with less than two minutes left in the game. We were debating that in the press box as the drive was taking place. I'm torn. Baylor's defense had played well enough that they might have been able to hold Texas Tech in an overtime. But that's never easy from the 25-yard line. Briles probably thought he'd have the momentum. It would have been fun to see the attempt.
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