Larry Brown has coached at three college programs, and all three have wound up on probation.
That, however, does not mean that Brown is a cheater.
“I think with Larry Brown, it’s easy to look at him and say, ‘Hey, he’s 3-for-3. He’s coached at three colleges and every one of them has gone on probation, so he just be a chronic cheater’ – and I’ll admit I’ve made that assumption, too,” Bleacher Report college basketball senior writer Jason King said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “But I think as fans and oftentimes as journalists, we’re just so easy to kind of tag someone with this label without really going and researching them a little bit.”
Brown, 75, coached at UCLA from 1979-81 and at Kansas from 1983-88. Both programs got in trouble; neither, it turns out, had much to do with Brown.
“(UCLA) had a history of infractions with a booster out there, Sam Gilbert,” King said. “He was giving (to) players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton – all the John Wooden guys were real close with him – and there just a culture of cheating going on. The belief out there was that no one wanted to ever investigate the tenure of John Wooden or things that may have gone on with him. So Larry Brown takes over and the culture is still there. He tried to rid the school of the booster and the booster threatened to castrate him, according to an article I found in Sports Illustrated.”
At Kansas, meanwhile, Brown gave a recruit $300 so he could fly home and be with his dying grandmother.
“He admitted it. It’s a violation,” King said. “But the school got banned from the NCAA Tournament. The reason they got banned was not because of his violation. It was because the school had been on probation already because of the football team. So when Larry Brown committed this minor violation, the penalty was very stiff. So did he do something wrong? Yes. Was it to the level that people thought it was nowadays? No. I just think people have gone overboard with their labels for him.”
SMU was placed on probation when a former administrative assistant helped current player Keith Frazier complete his coursework to stay eligible. Frazier, however, isn’t the reason why No. 21 SMU is 21-3. No, that honor belongs to transfers Nic Moore (Illinois State), Jordan Tolbert (Texas Tech) and Markus Kennedy (Villanova), among others.
“He’s just taking guys that are kind of looking for a fresh start and doing a great job with them,” King said.
When Brown resigned from the Charlotte Bobcats in December 2010, many figured that Brown, then 70, was retiring. Sixteen months later, he became head coach at SMU.
“Larry Brown is a guy that whenever he’s retired or out of the game, he can’t stay away from it,” King said. “A lot of times, guys retire, they go play golf or they find other interests. Larry Brown traveled around the country and goes to college basketball practices. He just can’t stay away from the game. So when that opportunity (at SMU) came open he said, ‘Hey, why not throw my name in the ring?’ It was a struggling program, they didn’t have a lot of tradition and now they’re selling the place out. He’s done a great job.”