DALLAS — Larry Brown has returned to college coaching.
Brown was formally introduced Monday as the men’s basketball coach at SMU, his first college job in nearly a quarter century.
The 71-year-old Hall of Famer joked about his age and said he looked forward to coaching “quality basketball with quality student-athletes” at a school that has long struggled to be relevant in Dallas and nationally. SMU has not won an NCAA tournament game since 1988 — the same year Brown won a national title at Kansas in his last season in college.
Brown brushed off questions about how long he would stay at SMU, saying he thought the Mustangs had the resources to compete in the Big East when it joins the conference in 2013.
“When I look in the mirror, I get kind of scared,” Brown said. “But inside, I feel like I can do this forever.”
Brown is the only coach to win both an NCAA championship and an NBA title. He hasn’t coached since leaving the Charlotte Bobcats in December 2010.
Brown is taking over a program that has revamped its facilities and has lots of top high school talent nearby. Standing outside the half-century-old Moody Coliseum, which is set to undergo $40 million in renovations, Brown said he saw the arena as “the same kind of facility” as Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke’s home court.
“Walking around this campus, if we can get a kid to visit here, I can’t imagine him going anywhere else,” Brown said.
Brown replaces Matt Doherty, who was fired after six seasons. Doherty attended the news conference at Brown’s invitation, as did Kansas coach Bill Self. Brown and Doherty — both of whom have ties to North Carolina and legendary coach Dean Smith — met the team together after the hiring.
“My biggest concern in this process was that they hire a good coach and a good person for my players and my recruits, because I care about those kids,” Doherty said. “And they did it.”
Brown embraced the generations separating him and his players, saying he long ago wanted to coach basketball at a strong academic school.
He told his players about two Hall of Fame coaches, Frank McGuire and Henry Iba. When the players didn’t know who either man was, Brown joked that he didn’t want to ask about James Naismith, who invented basketball more than a century ago.
When Brown on called out, “I’m talking about practice” — referencing Allen Iverson’s famous 2002 rant when Brown coached the Philadelphia 76ers — he pointed to several players and asked, “Do you guys know what I’m talking about?”
Guard London Giles said he did.
“Larry Brown, he has a lot of history under his belt,” Giles said afterward. “We’re eager to learn from him.”
Details of Brown’s deal with SMU, a private school, were not disclosed. Brown declined to talk about his contract, other than to say, “I’ve always been overpaid and this is no exception.”
The hire came as SMU’s search was going into its sixth week. Among other candidates were Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Long Beach State’s Dan Monson and Rick Majerus from Saint Louis.
Brown said he didn’t mind if he wasn’t the first choice and suggested he would have a longer tenure than many people expect.
“I don’t want people to think I’m just doing this for a little while,” Brown said. “I don’t feel like, you know, one, two, three, four years. I want to be in this for the long haul.”
Brown has a reputation for impressive turnarounds and often messy departures from teams. HIs first coaching job was at Davidson in 1972, though he didn’t coach a game there before going to the ABA and then the NBA. He coached at UCLA (1979-81) and Kansas (1983-88) and was the coach of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that had a disappointing bronze-medal finish.
He has held a record nine NBA jobs and was 1,098-904 (.548 winning percentage) with Denver, New Jersey, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana, Philadelphia, Detroit, the New York Knicks and Charlotte. He took all of those teams but the Knicks to the playoffs.
SMU last went to the NCAA tournament in 1993. Doherty was fired March 13 with one year left on his contract after going 80-109 in six seasons.
Brown’s hiring was welcomed by Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who was fired by the Pistons in 2003 and replaced by Brown. Brown won a championship in his first season and took the Pistons to the NBA finals again before leaving to join the Knicks.
“It’s a big-time hire,” Carlisle said. “He’s a guy that I know well, he’s a friend. To get a guy in that stature and status to the city of Dallas to coach at SMU, it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal. He’ll do a great job.”