By Jon Rothstein
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On Tuesday, The coach who would rather have a whistle around his neck than a penthouse on Park Avenue finally got his wish.
At 71 years young, Larry Brown is returning to the game he loves as the head coach of SMU.
Some may call it odd.
Others may call it peculiar.
Brown will tell you it’s just about being happy again and the only place in the world that Brown can find happiness is in the confines of a gymnasium coaching the game he cherishes.
With one year left in Conference-USA before joining the Big East, the Mustangs pose to Brown the greatest reclamation project he’s ever had in his storied career of “turnarounds.”
In the last 20 years, SMU has just three seasons in which they’ve won 20 or more games. The Mustangs don’t have great facilities or great returning personnel. They’re playing in Dallas, a city that loves the Cowboys and Dirk Nowitzki when it comes to sports and has never really fully embraced collegiate athletics.
None of this matters to Brown.
The only thing that he’s concerned with is that he has a team again, a staff again, and most of all, a chance to teach again.
Most people go to the Hamptons in the summer to relax and put their feet in the sand. Brown would often do clinics for young children.
Kevin Ollie, now an assistant at UCONN told me that when he played for Brown when he coached the 76ers in the NBA Brown used to tell him almost all the time that all he wanted “was a chance to smell the gym every day.” Now that’s just what he’ll get.
Some coaches in their late 60s or early 70s try to land one last pay day — that isn’t Brown’s motive with this job. This is a guy who once got paid $25 million in an approximate 12 month span “not” to coach the Knicks and Pistons.
He doesn’t need money, what he needs is players — and lots of them. One thing Brown lacks is patience and he’ll have to get some fast if he’s going to make it through a week of practice let alone an entire season with a team that finished 13-19 this past year.
Instead of chastising Chauncey Billups, Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, or Raymond Felton on how to play the point guard position the correct way, Brown will now be dealing with Jeremiah Samarrippas, a 5-foot-10 play maker that started the last two seasons for SMU.
A major adjustment? You better believe it. And what about the crowds on the road in Conference-USA? They surely won’t compare to road games at Golden State and the Staples Center on an NBA West Coast swing — but in the end, none of that will matter to Brown.
He’d rather be at SMU than where he’s been the last couple of seasons and that’s out of the game.
For the past few years, Brown was a coach with no team. Now he’s got one again and for him that’s a reason to go to a gym every day.
In the end, that’s all he ever wanted.
Do you think Brown will turn around SMU? Sound off below…