Shooting Around With SMU Basketball Coach Larry Brown

By Bronte Erwin

You publically expressed your interest in the coaching job here. What attracted you to SMU?

Larry Brown: When the job came open, after watching John Calipari, Bill Self, Jay Wright, Matt Turgeon, all my buddies coach, I had this itch. And I didn’t like being retired. I didn’t handle that well. Three years ago I could’ve went to Stanford, but I was afraid to move my family at the time because we had moved so much. I’m not saying this is Stanford, but this is a great school academically. It’s been a great place to live and they are going in to a great conference.

Had you visited SMU before?

LB: I played here. I played at Moody in the ABA against the Chaparrals. And I’m a big basketball fan. I have a lot of respect for Doc Hayes. He used to come say hello when we played and I admired the hell out of him.

You last coached college basketball in 1988. Have you changed as a coach since then?

LB: Yeah. I don’t look at mirrors and don’t celebrate birthdays. I don’t know. I hope I’m smarter… and I hope I’m better. I’ve learned a lot since then. Coaching in the NBA, you’re around great players with great knowledge. And they shared things with me. I’ve had great staffs. With experience you hope you get better.

Has the college game changed since you left?

LB: There is a clock now. The kids are much younger, and with AAU basketball they have played so many games. Biggest change I see is recruiting. To me, there are so many outside things you have to be involved in. Recruiting is 24-7. When I coached before, you knew the high school coach, the parents and the guidance counselor. And you didn’t start recruiting them as seventh graders, so that has changed a lot. But the teaching part, I’ve always enjoyed the practice part and the involvement with the kids. That’s exciting to me.

There is tremendous pull on elite players to forgo their eligibility and turn pro. Is there anything that could be done to ensure student-athletes would finish their education?

LB: Yeah we should be like baseball. You can come out of high school, but if you go to school you gotta go three years. I’d love that. I don’t think it’s fair not to tell a “LeBron James” coming out of high school he’s good enough. But if they did go to school, I’d love it to be like baseball. Go for three years and the program can get some continuity. But every kid you talk to thinks they are one and done. So I don’t want them to feel like failures if they are not. If they are good enough they’ll have my blessing. The longer they stay; Tim Duncan stayed, Grant Hill stayed, David Robinson stayed. Michael [Jordan] even stayed for three years and that ain’t bad.

Did the move to the Big East affect your interest in SMU?

LB: That was huge. When I was a young coach for Coach Smith he asked me where I wanted to coach some day. And I said I would love to coach Carolina but I don’t want to ever see him step down. So I mentioned Princeton, Stanford and Vanderbilt as schools; great academically in great conferences. So I look at SMU and there are a lot of similarities. And I am a long time fan of John Thompson. I saw what he did. When he took over Georgetown it wasn’t the greatest job in the world, and they went to the Big East as a great school academically in a great city. Hopefully we can do a good job here where kids will want to go to school.

All the schools you mentioned are known for academics. What attracts you to those types of schools?  

LB: You wanna coach great kids that are going to school for the right reasons. And when you walk into a home, the parents are instantly going to have respect because you represent that school. Our problem is a lot of kids don’t think they can make it here academically. But we have a great support system in place. So going into a great conference will help us. We just gotta figure out a way to get the kids in Texas. But there are so many great programs here, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M. There is a lot of competition for great players. So we gotta work hard to get the kids.

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