In his 40th year since first becoming a head basketball coach, Larry Brown rides again.
Today, Southern Methodist University — best known for the time its football team almost received the death penalty from the NCAA — hired the 71-year-old Brown to take over its basketball program. After joining the Big East next season, the Mustangs will immediately become one of the least accomplished programs in the powerhouse conference, and Brown has certainly taken on a challenge after sitting out the coaching game since quitting the Bobcats in 2010.
Brown’s age is a serious issue: putting a 71-year-old in charge of a college team raises a number of interesting questions, like how much responsibility he’ll place in the hands of his assistants (whose contracts, according to ESPN’s report, have yet to be finalized) and how involved he’ll be in recruiting. Many of his players will be a full 50 years his junior, and hitting the trail to meet high schoolers could be difficult. Or it might not — the fact that he’s 71 doesn’t necessarily mean he’s unfit.
Let’s take a walk back through Brown’s (long, long) career and weigh how each job compares to this one in terms of difficulty.
JOB ONE: NCAA, Davidson College, 1972
More difficult. So difficult, in fact, that Brown didn’t even make it to the regular season before leaving — he lasted a month.
JOB TWO: ABA, Carolina Cougars, 1972-74
Less difficult. Brown, a former ABA player himself, had enough talent on the roster to lead the team to a 57-27 record in his first year.
JOB THREE: ABA/NBA, Denver Nuggets, 1974-79
Less difficult. With future Hall of Famer and N.C. State legend David Thompson on his roster, Brown made an ABA Finals and then reached the playoffs in the Nuggets’ first two years in the NBA after the 1976 merger.
JOB FOUR: NCAA, UCLA, 1979-81
Less difficult. How hard could it have been, considering he made the Finals in year one? Oh, and also, he had a bunch of ineligible players. Final Four = vacated!
JOB FIVE: NBA, New Jersey Nets, 1981-83
Less difficult. But not easy enough to keep him from accepting the job at the University of Kansas before the end of the season, earning him a suspension from the league. (lolololololol)
JOB SIX: NCAA, University of Kansas, 1983-88
Less difficult. This is Kansas, after all. In 1988, Brown got his NCAA Championship, and then, of course, he left. Except here, not only did he leave Kansas coach-less — he also gifted them a bunch of recruiting violations that got the school banned from the 1989 tournament, costing them a chance to defend their title.
JOB SEVEN: NBA, San Antonio Spurs, 1988-92
JOB EIGHT: NBA, Los Angeles Clippers, 1992-93
JOB NINE: NBA, Indiana Pacers, 1993-97
JOB TEN: NBA, Philadelphia 76ers, 1997-03
For obvious reasons, all of these NBA jobs were way easier than taking over Southern Methodist will be. Brown had David Robinson in San Antonio, then led the Clippers to two straight playoffs, then saw two straight Eastern Conference Finals with Indiana and Reggie Miller, THEN, with Allen Iverson, took the 76ers to the NBA Finals.
JOB ELEVEN: NBA, Detroit Pistons, 2003-05
Brown earned his first NBA title with the Pistons in 2004, his first year with the team, and returned to the Finals in ‘05. (Naturally, the second time around was marred by talk that he would leave after the season. Which he did.) This isn’t quite as impressive when you realize that he came in on the heels of Rick Carlisle leading Detroit to the Eastern Conference Finals in ‘03, but he did unify the team where Carlisle couldn’t, and he did become the only coach to ever win NCAA and NBA championships.
JOB ELEVEN POINT FIVE: The 2004 U.S Olympic Team
Should’ve been easy, but this one didn’t go so well. Bronze is not good enough for U.S.A. basketball.
JOB TWELVE: NBA, New York Knicks, 2005-06
After receiving a $10+ million/year contract, Brown and the Knicks limped to a 23-59 record, and he was fired. Hooray!
JOB THIRTEEN: NBA, Charlotte Bobcats, 2008-2010
Actually pretty difficult, consider the newness of the Bobcats as a franchise; Brown needed only two seasons to take them to the playoffs.
TOTAL: 13 jobs between 1972 and 2010, which, excluding his two-season hiatus from 2006-08, covers about 36 seasons. That’s an average of 2.77 years per job.
SMU fans: you probably shouldn’t get too used to Larry.