Move over Rodney Dangerfield, now Larry Brown wants to go back to school. Again.
How do you justify wanting a collegiate head coaching opportunity when your last game at that level was more than 20 years ago? Well, pointing out the fact that you a) won that game and b.) it was for the NCAA championship is a good starting point.
The 70-year-old Brown has never shied away from the spotlight or enormous challenges, and that is a large part of the reason he is regarded as one of the best basketball coaches -- at any level -- off all time. With his NBA days seemingly behind him, the Hall-of-Famer figures it’s time for a new journey to old stomping grounds.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, Brown said:
“Kids want to be in the NBA, and if you can coach and teach and get them ready for the NBA and you’re at a good school, I think you’d have an unbelievable head start on a lot of people. I’ve always tried to get players better, whether as a college coach or a pro coach. Two minutes on the floor on the first day of practice, players know whether you can coach or not.”
Considering that this is the same man who -- in his heyday -- tamed big-time personalities like Allen Iverson, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace, it’s difficult to argue against Brown’s ability to handle youngsters. Further, the fact that he has actually come in and won on teams with minimal amounts of talent, serving as the anti-Phil Jackson for decades, seemingly solidifies his standing as a coach all schools should look at.
Yet Brown is not without some serious baggage of his own.
His time with the Charlotte Bobcats, which ended after an interesting two-and-a-half season run, was marred with some peaks and valleys. He seemingly turned the team around at certain points, and then watched it collapse into below-average status towards the end of his time with the franchise. Obviously, Michael Jordan’s cost-cutting tendencies weighed in and influenced Brown’s ability to coach, but that wasn’t the deciding factor.
Then there was the New York Knicks catastrophe. Some would argue that had Brown been given more time and room to operate back in the dark ages of NY basketball, he could have made something of that Starbury-led three-ring circus. And while that very well may be true, he certainly didn’t do anything to justify extending his time with the franchise.
This, of course, isn’t the first time Brown has been connected with a college coaching job. Back in 2008 he was offered the head coaching vacancy at Stanford, but turned it down due to family reasons. The official story was that he didn’t want to relocate his family, but many speculated that Brown simply didn’t like that particular opening and pined for a better shot.
For all the doubts on how he would do after such a long absence from the college game, it’s hard to argue with the worthiness of a head coach who went 177-61 during his college years, and reached the Final Four three times. Oh yeah, and then there was that aforementioned title with Kansas Jayhawks that he nabbed before taking the plunge into the NBA and never looking back.
“I’d bring in a staff where someone is really good and capable of taking over,” Brown revealed to Yahoo Sports. “Look at the people who have worked for me or played for me that are coaching now.”
Clearly Brown has given this situation a lot of thought. This isn’t just a spur of the moment decision by a guy who swapped professional basketball coaching jobs as if they were items of clothing back in the day.
“I don’t want this to sound wrong, but I think I can teach as well as anyone,” Brown said. “I can win games. I can recruit because I know what it takes to get to the next level and I can be honest with these kids. I can’t tell you how many college players I spoke with during my NBA career that I urged to return because they aren’t ready."
All signs point to Brown returning -- and at this point it becomes a matter of when not if. Still, you have to wonder how much the 70-year-old truly has left in his tank at this point to deal with what NCAA hoops has devolved into.
The attitudes of college ballers aren’t exactly the same as it was back in 1988. This is the era of the prima donna superstars – the one and done crowd who is too cool for school. It’s all about getting in for a year, doing the best you can, and then bouncing to the next, better opportunity.
Does that route to prominence remind you of a resume belonging to any particular head coach?
Brown won’t just fit well into the current college basketball landscape, he’ll thrive in it.