Why is Larry Brown at SMU?

In his second year rebuilding the school's basketball program, the only coach to win an NBA and NCAA championship still loves being in the gym.

You beat out Kentucky and Kansas to sign point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, one of the top five recruits in the country and arguably the biggest name to ever come to SMU. What does his signing mean to the program?

He’s as good a player as there is in the country, and he’s a better kid. He’s from Dallas. He’s got a great family. Those are the kids we gotta continue to sign. We got Keith Frazier last year, out of Dallas, and now Emmanuel, and Emmanuel’s brother, Jean-Michael (a junior transfer from Western Texas College). We’ve got some really good young people coming into our program. That’s huge.

Also huge for the program: Moody Coliseum reopens this month, after a $47 million renovation.

You know, Moody was great before. The only thing missing was the fans. But I’m hopeful we’re going to have a better team and get the students more involved. Since we’re the only Division I team in Dallas, you’d like to have people in the community want to follow us. But that’s on us. It’s not on the people. We’ve gotta be a good enough team and play the right way, where people want to see us play. That’s our goal.

“We have a great university, we’re in a great league, we’re in a great city, so I think this should be appealing to kids.” 

You’d been away from the college game for a while. What was the biggest difference you encountered coming back?

Well, recruiting has changed a lot. I was at North Carolina, UCLA, and Kansas—you’re in the lottery area here—so it wasn’t quite the same in terms of how you’re received. And then when I was coaching before, you knew the parents, you knew the high school coach, and maybe the guidance counselor. Now there’s a lot of other factors involved. But the bottom line is, we have a great university, we’re in a great league, we’re in a great city, so I think this should be appealing to kids.

SMU was coming off a season in which it finished second to last in its conference. What’s the toughest situation you’ve taken over?

I don’t know. When I went to Kansas, they weren’t in a winning situation. And then when I went back to help Coach Smith at North Carolina, it was just after the recruiting scandal broke, so they were not what they were accustomed to. When I went to UCLA, they lost three lottery picks. I’ve never gone to a situation that was right there. The only team that I ever took over in the pros that had a winning record was Detroit. I don’t look at it as being tough. I look at it as having a great opportunity.

Allen Iverson and David Robinson came in to visit practice and talk to the team before this season. What were the players’ reactions?

They were in awe. Well, they should be. You’re talking about two of the greatest players to ever play. It doesn’t get any better than that. They were honest with them, shared their experiences with them. I think we were all spellbound. And then you realize the impact those guys have on the young kids in the game. A lot of them remembered Allen a little bit more than David. I got to induct David into the Hall of Fame in 2009. He asked me to do that, and that was one of the highlights of my life. He has so many people he could have asked. That was a pretty special experience.

You’re 73 now, and you’ve been coaching for more than 40 years. Do you think you’ll ever retire?

No, no. I tried for two years, but no. When I got fired from Charlotte, I had two years off. Fortunately, a lot of people that played for me or coached with me asked me to come visit their teams. That saved my life. And made me want to come here.


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