A Chapel Hill basketball team for Coach Larry Brown

Mar. 08, 2014 @ 12:02 PM

Larry Brown and I were born the same year -- 1940. We have something else in common. After an absence of some years we both returned to coaching basketball last year.
He became basketball coach at Southern Methodist University after resting for a few years following a short tenure as coach of the professional Charlotte Bobcats.
My last coaching position was in Charlotte, too. About 40 years ago, I coached a YMCA team while my then 7-year-old son was playing.
Brown played college ball in Chapel Hill for Frank McGuire and Dean Smith and coached here briefly under Smith. Ironically, my current coaching position is in Chapel Hill, too. I am an assistant coach on the YMCA team on which my 8-year-old grandson plays.
I am not sure how much Brown makes at SMU, but his assistant coach reportedly is paid $700,000 a year. As a YMCA assistant coach this year, I make just as much as I did as a head coach in Charlotte.
Our coaching careers overlapped early on. Both of us had brief coaching experiences at Davidson. Brown got his first college head-coaching job there, succeeding Lefty Driesell in 1969. Brown never coached a game at Davidson, leaving after a few weeks. My coaching career there was even shorter. I handled two practices in the fall of 1962 while Driesell and assistant coach Joe Hunt were on recruiting trips. It was my first and last college coaching assignment.
Meanwhile, according to an article last week in The New York Times, Brown has revived the SMU basketball program in only two years, and he is recruiting a strong class for next year.
Explaining his recruiting success after being out of the college game for 25 years, Brown told the Times, “The older coaches know me. The kids? They Google me up.”
The Times article continued, “What the players find is that Brown has coached nine N.B.A. teams, two A.B.A. teams and three Division I teams (S.M.U., U.C.L.A. and Kansas). He won an N.C.A.A. championship with Kansas in 1988 and an N.B.A. championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.”
What the Times did not explain was Brown’s longtime connection to North Carolina basketball. Art Chansky’s 2005 book “Blue Blood” explains how Carolina player Larry Brown’s on-court fight with Duke’s Art Heyman fueled the developing rivalry between the two schools. That fight, which was viewed by a large television audience on a snowy winter evening in 1961, enflamed the passions of both Duke and Carolina fans.
According to Chansky, Brown would have taken the Carolina head basketball-coaching job when Bill Guthridge retired in 2000. After first choice Roy Williams decided to stay at Kansas, Dean Smith wanted Brown to come back. But the job went to Matt Doherty instead.
Ironically, Brown’s predecessor at SMU was Doherty.
We can speculate forever about what direction Carolina basketball would have taken under Brown had he been hired.
And, if he ever decides again that he wants to come back here, our White Ghosts YMCA team would welcome him to join our coaching staff.
Just like SMU, we would embrace his turn-around talents.


D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon (pre-empted until March 30) and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Viewers with access to UNC-TV’s digital channel UNC-MX can preview the program on the preceding Friday at 9 p.m. See today’s Herald-Sun Book Page for details. For information or to view prior programs visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch. Martin’s regular weekly column appears on The Herald-Sun’s editorial pages on Wednesdays and online at http://www.heraldsun.com/opinion/opinioncolumnists/martin.