The Big Mac Blog

Larry Brown’s predictable exit from SMU opens door for TCU

SMU men’s basketball coach Larry Brown, left, with former TCU head coach Trent Johnson before a game in 2012. Johnson was fired earlier this year and Brown resigned from SMU this morning.
SMU men’s basketball coach Larry Brown, left, with former TCU head coach Trent Johnson before a game in 2012. Johnson was fired earlier this year and Brown resigned from SMU this morning. Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner

The timing of this announcement could not have been worse but SMU men’s basketball coach Larry Brown has predictably quit after four years in Dallas.

Brown, 75, was in contract dispute with SMU and rather than accept a shorter deal he decided that four years was enough of SMU; it’s little surprising he lasted this long. CBS’s Sports Jon Rothstein first reported Brown’s resignation.

In the end, Larry Brown was Larry Brown at SMU. He won, he gave his team a national presence, he put the Mustangs on probation, and then he left.

That’s what you get when you hire Larry Brown. He did the same things in his previous stops at UCLA and Kansas.

Considering his age and the staggering amount of money he’s already made, why Brown was in a contract dispute is astonishing. Nonetheless, SMU assistant and former North Texas head coach Tim Jankovich takes over for Brown as the permanent head coach.

In the end, it was worth the hassle, and the NCAA probation, to hire Brown. They should have given him what he wanted - without Larry Brown, SMU basketball is nothing.

He made SMU relevant in a way it never had been before in men’s basketball. His departure from SMU creates an opening on the DFW basketball scene that TCU, and new head coach Jamie Dixon, would be wise to seize.

Recruiting in DFW without Larry Brown just became instantly easier.

SMU director of athletics Rick Hart issued this press statement:

“I want to start by saying that we are saddened by the tragic events that occurred in our city (Thursday) night. Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted and the Dallas community. While something like this puts athletics in perspective, media inquiries require that I address this morning’s news.

“We offered Coach Brown a long-term contract through 2020 and hoped he would continue to serve as head coach. This morning, however, I was notified by his agent that he would be stepping down. Coach Brown was able to accomplish so much in his four years on the Hilltop, including leading us to our first conference title since 1993. He has left his mark on SMU basketball, and we are thankful for what he’s done.”

Brown was 94-39 with the Mustangs in four years. He had them in the NIT Finals once and made the NCAA Tournament once as well. This past season they were on NCAA probation and not eligible for the tournament, which they would have made; the team finished 25-5 and at one point were ranked as high as eighth in the AP poll.

He signed McDonald’s All Americans, turned nobodies into somebodies, coached the hell out of point guards, turned Moody Coliseum a difficult place to play, not to mention a destination for basketball legends who wanted to visit their friend. And then he blew off NCAA rules and regulations.

All of it was predictable when SMU hired Brown in 2012. So too was his departure. He simply can’t stay put too long.

He is an odd duck, but I loved interviewing him and SMU’s controversial decision to hire him was the right move.

The sad part is that this may be the final stop for the best basketball teacher in the modern era. It does not seem right that a man of this stature’s final send off will be a press release.

His actions said he did not care about the NCAA or its rules, but nobody could coach like Larry Brown. The man could win with anything.

He won an NCAA title at Kansas with one player and a crew of miracles. He won an NBA title with the Pistons without any Hall of Fame talent.

Now he has likely retired from coaching. Maybe an NBA team gives him a front office job, but given his age it’s difficult to envision a team wanting him to be a head coach again.

All of this should help Jamie Dixon in his first season at TCU. Under Brown, SMU was easily the top program in an area that includes North Texas and UT-Arlington. At one point, SMU was the best team in Texas.

TCU never defeated SMU in Brown’s tenure, but that should change now. With a new head coach and an updated arena, TCU has the necessary toys to recruit talent and grab some of the players that had been attracted to SMU because of LB.

And there are few better game coaches than Larry Brown. Tim Jankovich is not LB’s equal in that regard in any way.

Larry Brown was always a short-term solution at SMU, but he did what he was hired and expected to do - win, probation, leave.

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