Larry Brown – a mentor to me, a friend, a supporter, a confidant and a basketball lifer – has resigned and is stepping away from SMU. There’s no doubt in my mind that he still has gas left in the tank. My guess is his next stop will be with an NBA franchise in some capacity. He’s one of the most self-disciplined, driven and curious people I’ve met, which has kept him young beyond his age.
Coach Brown is one of the great coaches, not only of this era, but of any era. He’s been with me throughout my career and has always been my protector. He hired me as a part-time assistant at Kansas, where I learned the true meaning to be a coach. Last summer, he stood on the stage with me as one of my three Hall of Fame presenters.
For the young people who may not know, let me go over some of his accomplishments so you can see what he was like as a player and a coach in the professional ranks and college.
He played at North Carolina for two Hall of Famers, Frank McGuire and Dean Smith. He played in the ABA, where he was a three-time All-Star and won a championship. He was also on the 1964 Olympic team that won a gold medal.
Coach Brown coached in the ABA for Carolina and Denver, where he reached the ABA finals. He coached at UCLA, going to a Final Four. He won a national championship at Kansas. He coached again in the NBA and guided teams to the playoffs what seemed like every season. In 2004 he coached the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship. Most recently, in the past four years, he rebuilt SMU into an NCAA Tournament team.
The numbers are simply incredible. He was an NBA coach with thousands of wins. He’s been named coach of the year in the ABA, NCAA and NBA. He’s the only coach to win both an NBA and NCAA title and the only coach in NBA history to lead eight different teams to the playoffs.
He’s a Hall of Famer, but one of the most impressive things with Coach Brown is that with all this success he’s had, he’s never generated anything but respect within the coaching profession. He is a true coach’s coach who would help any coach who asked or needed help.
He helped start many careers, including my own, but just to name a few others: Gregg Popovich and Alvin Gentry. R.C. Buford in San Antonio. Bill Self, Mark Turgeon, Kevin Ollie and Tad Boyle. Believe me, that’s just a short version of the list. All of us took what he taught us and we all benefitted greatly by watching him and learning from him.
Coach Brown once told me, and it’s the biggest piece of advice he’s ever given to me: “If you truly care about your players and their success, you will always have a job.”
When I got fired from the Nets, Coach Brown threw me a life raft and hired me to be an assistant with him with the 76ers. I always say that was one of the greatest years of my life because all I focused on was doing anything I could to help him have success.
Again, throughout his whole career, I would say he is one of the most respected and well-liked coaches. Many of us just want to help the people within our organization and let no one else in. He’s never been that way. I never have witnessed him comparing himself to another coach. He doesn’t have that personality. It’s always, “How do we make the game better? How do we coach better?” He takes things from every coach because he’s curious and wants to learn. He’s a true, life-long learner.
He’s never lost his fire for the game and I don’t think this is the end for him. As I said earlier, I would guess he will probably finish his career being part of an NBA organization in some capacity, but no matter what he chooses to do, I’m confident he’ll have success and continue to touch lives.
Changing our approach while maintaining our mindset