Commentary

SMU botched coaching search

Larry Brown set to take over program after AD's failed attempts to lure top targets

Updated: April 18, 2012, 2:45 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

Let's see. Buzz Williams, Tommy Amaker, Dan Monson and Rick Majerus all either turned down SMU's men's basketball job or didn't want it.

So at the end of one of the most poorly conducted coaching searches in NCAA history, athletic director Steve Orsini appears to be getting ready to hire a retired 71-year-old legend.

[+] EnlargeLarry Brown
Geoff Burke/US PresswireLarry Brown is set to become SMU's next basketball coach after athletic director Steve Orsini couldn't get anyone else to take the job.

Larry Brown, who professed his interest in the job about three weeks ago after saying he wanted to return to coaching in some capacity, is close to snagging the gig because Orsini can't persuade someone else to take it.

Sad, isn't it?

Brown is reportedly going to be accompanied by former North Texas coach Tim Jankovich, who's currently the head coach at Illinois State and led the Mean Green from 1993-97. Jankovich will reportedly be SMU's coach in waiting, a necessity because of Brown's age and his propensity to leave jobs soon after he gets hired.

Don't forget, Brown hasn't coached a college basketball team since 1988.

Woo-hoo! Hip, hip hooray!

Surely that's what SMU alums and Dallas Independent School District coaches must be saying, as well as the area's big-time recruits. Maybe their dads are hyped, but most of the kids Brown will be recruiting probably don't know anything about his contribution to basketball -- unless they've figured out he's the coach who prompted Allen Iverson's famous "we're talking 'bout practice" rant.

All you can do is shake your head.

It's hard to figure out how Orsini, who made an excellent football hire in June Jones, screwed up this hire so badly.

Perhaps he should've taken notes from TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte.

TCU men's coach Jim Christian resigned to coach Ohio University on April 1. A week later, LSU's Trent Johnson accepted Del Conte's job offer.

Neatly and nicely done.

There's no excuse for Orsini's botched search, especially since he wants to hire a coach who has been available since the day his search for Matt Doherty's replacement began March 13.

Anyone who has followed local sports knew Doherty was getting fired from the moment practice began last fall unless the Mustangs had a sensational season. How in the world could Orsini not have his guy ready?

There's zero wrong with going after a hot name such as Marquette's Williams, but once he didn't take the job, Orsini was supposed to go to his next choice and get the deal done.

Then again, selling SMU men's basketball must be among the toughest jobs in sports.

It's a raggedy program that must be built from the ground up after just three 20-win seasons since 1988, including one since 1993. It has tough academic standards -- no problem with that, but you can't ignore their existence.

Although the Dallas-Fort Worth area has produced NBA stars such as Deron Williams, Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge and a bevy of high-profile college players, SMU has attracted virtually no players of note.

That's why the best part of Orsini's shaky coaching package is the reported additions of former Illinois assistant Jerrance Howard and Rod Strickland. Howard is supposed to be among the nation's best recruiters, and Strickland, an assistant at Kentucky the past two seasons, brings his shiny new championship ring to DFW.

Perhaps they can get in homes and persuade area players to take SMU seriously.

There's no way SMU's program should be this bad. UTA is better. So is North Texas. TCU, too.

Absolutely ridiculous.

We all know it doesn't take that long to turn around a basketball program. All you need is a good coach and a couple of quality players who believe in him.

The hope, it seems, is that Brown will provide the coaching while Howard and Strickland can bring in the players.

We won't know for a couple of seasons whether Brown, the only coach in history to win an NCAA title and an NBA championship, is up to the task, though we should see tangible progress on the court next season.

Heck, the results couldn't be any worse than the convoluted search that could result in Brown taking over SMU's moribund program.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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