By Peter Gleason
Larry Brown has won an NCAA title at Kansas and an NBA crown with the Detroit Pistons.
Not to mention crafting the 2001 Sixers into an NBA finalist.
But yesterday he did what he does best.
The 75-year-old coach restored SMU’s basketball program to national relevancy. The way he did it may raise questions and more than a few eyebrows, but he did it.
Is anyone really surprised?
SMU hired Brown for one reason and one reason alone — to get its program back into the national conversation following years of relative irrelevancy. The Hall of Fame coach recruited hard and pushed the limits, but he got it done for the program, leading the Mustangs to the NCAA tournament in 2015. It was the first time SMU had made the tournament since 1993.
Then, almost as if on cue, the hammer dropped. The NCAA banned SMU from the 2016 postseason and suspended Brown for 30% of the team’s games due to multiple infractions, including academic fraud and unethical conduct.
Ten months after the NCAA’s decision, Brown is leaving the program. What remains are the ongoing punishments from the NCAA, which include the loss of nine scholarships over the next three years and recruiting restrictions.
Brown has earned himself a reputation for building programs up and then leaving, both in college and the NBA, and SMU had to know that going in. They wanted to make a splash and knew what they were getting in to, and only the school can decide if the decisions they made were worth it.
The program has national relevance again. But the man who got them back there is gone, with the aftermath of a scandal still lingering. No one should be surprised.