Larry Brown has spent a significant amount of time around the Villanova basketball program in recent years. He attended practically every Wildcats home game in the 2012 season, sitting in the baseline court-side seats opposite from the Villanova student section. He also often attended practices as Jay Wright's guest and as an advisor, serving a similar role as Gene Keady did at St. John's last year, but without an official title.
Brown, aged 71, never lost the desire to coach, and has been looking for his next opportunity since parting ways with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010. Now, Brown has seized upon the SMU Mustang's coaching search as a possible landing spot. The future Big East member is looking to hire a big name coach to elevate their program to the Big East level, and the former NBA coaching legend is throwing his hat in the ring.
At least, according to the Dallas Morning News. He wouldn't comment specifically about the SMU job to ESPN's Dana O'Neil, but he did admit that he is looking.
"I'm not going to be politicking for a job right now," Brown said. "I'd like to get back involved in the game in some capacity. Whether that's as a coach, assistant, running a team or just as a resource, I don't care.
Brown started hanging around the Villanova program when he was fired by the New York Knicks after the 2005-06 season and returned to the Philadelphia suburbs after another NBA gig with the Bobcats fizzled out. Though his last college coaching job ended in 1988, he spent 18 seasons following his stint at Kansas coaching in the NBA. He holds NBA titles, three NCAA Final Four appearances and a NCAA National Championship.
When his last NBA job ended, Brown told reporters that he was "bored" without basketball — the reason why he spent so much time around the Main Line program.
Brown is from the Brooklyn, but settled in the Philadelphia area when he took the head coaching position with the 76ers in 1997. His wife and two children have remained in the area since that time. He was rumored to have had interest in the Penn State job when Ed DeChellis left that position for Navy and was reportedly close to accepting the head coaching job at Stanford in 2008.
SMU has raised a significant amount of money from boosters in order to secure a big name coach to take on the project of building SMU into a competitive Big East program. The Mustangs had been targeting Marquette's Buzz Williams, a Texas-native, but Williams issued a statement yesterday affirming his intention to stay with the Milwaukee school. There were also rumors that SMU had been talking to Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg.
The Mustangs have invested heavily in facilities for the basketball program recently, building a practice facility and renovating their on-campus arena. They will need a coach who can recruit players and lead the team at a level that matches that investment.
The program last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 1993 — a level of basketball futility that is only matched in the Big East by Rutgers, who last received a bid in 1991.
Whether the interest is mutual between Brown and SMU is unknown, but it may be difficult for the Dallas school to say no to the coaching legend. If hired, Brown's attendance at Villanova practices would clearly come to an end, as he would be on his way to becoming a conference rival for the Wildcats. Brown's visits to practice have coincided with some of the best times in program history — the early part of the Scottie Reynolds years ('06-'07 and '07-'08) — as well as some of the worst ('10-'11 and '11-'12).
It is hard to draw any conclusions of Brown's impact on the Villanova program from their successes or failures during those times.
For SMU, however, Brown would be a well-known coaching personality, which appears to be a staple of the best Big East programs. Rick Pitino, John Thompson III, Jay Wright and Jim Calhoun are all current larger-than-life personalities pacing the Big East sidelines.
Do the personalities make the Big East or does the Big East make the personalities? SMU is in position to find out.