Larry Brown must recruit to succeed
Landing athletes from DFW area is key to putting SMU program back together
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- Larry Brown won his introductory news conference, which should surprise no one since this is his fourth college coaching job to go with the nine NBA jobs he's had.
Still, he seemed more than comfortable with the notion that he's in charge of a college program for the first time since 1988.
He poked fun at his age, which he should since he's 71. And he joked about struggling to send and receive text messages, a necessity in today's high-tech world of college basketball recruiting.
He even dispelled the notion that he was athletic director Steve Orsini's first choice for the job.
"I don't care if I was the second, third or fourth choice," Brown said. "I couldn't be at a better spot at this time of my life than right here. I don't want people to think I'm just doing this for a little while. I don't feel like, you know, one, two, three, four years. I want to be in this for the long haul."
Good for him.
No one knows whether Brown can succeed at SMU. Orsini's hire will either be a spectacular success or a failure of mammoth proportions.
But it won't be boring.
A hire such as Brown, who signed on the dotted line after a circuitous 37-day search, gives SMU the credibility and national attention it craves. And it'll bring all sorts of national media attention to a basketball program that hasn't won 20 games since 1993 or won an NCAA tournament game since 1988.
But if the Mustangs continue losing games before tiny crowds, the buzz will soon fade.
For one day, though, SMU and it's irrelevant hoops program took advantage of the attention. Planes flew overhead with trailers that read, "Welcome to town Larry Brown -- SMU."
President R. Gerald Turner joked about the ticket office being open during the news conference and that he was willing to accept donations to the program as soon as the news conference ended.
Many truths are told in jest. When the news conference ended, blue and red confetti filled the air.
Now, it's time for Brown to get to work. He made the importance of recruiting Dallas-Fort Worth and the entire state a recurring theme.
Many before him, including Matt Doherty, have tried and failed. Even a genius such as Brown needs players to win.
He must quickly familiarize himself with SMU's roster, area high school and AAU coaches and start the process of forging bonds with the coaches that will ultimately provide him with players.
That's why it's imperative for Brown to add an assistant with Texas ties to lead the recruiting effort. None of his staff, which is supposed to include former Illinois assistant Jerrance Howard and Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland, has signed contracts yet.
Right now, there's no guarantee Tim Jankovich will leave Illinois State to be Brown's coach-in-waiting, which has been widely reported.
"It's obvious I've gotta get someone with head coaching experience," Brown said. "I want it to be a real positive. I don't want it to be a lateral move."
SMU wants staying power, not just 15 minutes of fame, which is why Orsini ultimately hired Brown.
And you have to consider no one else wanted the job. To imply otherwise is disingenuous.
"We set our goal high, very high, because SMU strives for excellence in everything it does," Orsini said. "We found an unbelievable amount of interest in our job."
Then how come Orsini couldn't persuade Marquette's Buzz Williams, Harvard's Tommy Amaker, Long Beach State's Dan Monson or St. Louis' Rick Majerus to take it.
And those are just some of the folks we know about.
"We were never rejected by anyone," Orsini said. "We made one offer and got one acceptance. It's important that you know that.
"That's what SMU deserves, and that states what SMU's value is out there in the athletic community."
It's Orsini's right to spin the truth any way he chooses, but college administrators excel in semantics.
Brown is a Hall of Fame coach, and he wore his ring identifying him as such to the news conference. His new team saw it when he introduced himself to them Monday morning.
His success or failure at SMU will have zero to do with coaching. It's about whether he can put a quality staff together and successfully recruit Dallas-Fort Worth.
It starts with recruiting the Dallas Independent School District and moving out to the suburbs. And, please, stop the poppycock about DISD student-athletes not being able to handle the academics at SMU.
Chris Bosh, a Lincoln graduate, attended Georgia Tech. He would've done fine academically at SMU.
SMU's football team has signed DISD kids, and the basketball team needs to follow suit.
There's no good reason SMU can't have a quality basketball team. June Jones has turned around a raggedy football program, and fixing a basketball program is significantly easier.
It won't take long to figure out if Brown can do it.