Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Larry Brown has been the head coach at SMU for less than two months but he’s already made huge waves in terms of turning over his roster.
In addition to essentially cutting several players from the SMU roster, Brown — the only coach to win an NBA and NCAA title — has been aggressive in landing transfers Josiah Turner (Arizona) and Crandall Head (Illinois).
SMU is also involved with 2012 late signees Savon Goodman of Philadelphia and Chris Obekpa of New York, as first reported by SNY.tv, and managed to jump in late on the Harrison twins.
Brown is not permitted to comment on specific recruitable student-athletes, but in a lengthy interview Thursday with SNY.tv, he said: “We’re trying [to transform the roster], but it took so long for them to pick a coach that so many of the better kids have already made decisions. And you don’t want to just recruit anybody. But the people you bring in you hope can play in the Big East and on that level, so we’ve just tried to scramble around and identify some kids that maybe didn’t commit and see if they would be the type of kids that help us compete on that level.”
The 6-foot-6 Goodman out of Philly Constitution High is considering SMU and UNLV, and visited UNLV this week.
“Looks like SMU and UNLV are leading the pack,” his high school coach, Rob Moore, told SNY.tv. “He loved coach Brown.”
The 6-foot-9 Obekpa announced he had cut his list to St. John’s and Cincinnati, adding that he wanted to stay close to home, which would seem to indicate the Johnnies will be his landing spot.
Yet that hasn’t stopped Brown from reaching out to Obekpa and his handlers.
One source said Brown “fell in love” with Obekpa after seeing him at a recent AAU event and compared him to Serge Ibaka and Ben Wallace, whom Brown coached with the Detroit Pistons.
“As of [Thursday] morning he said he’s still open,” a source told SNY.tv of Obekpa. “He doesn’t say a lot. It wouldn’t shock me if all of a sudden he says he wants to go to St. John’s.”
Brown and assistant Ulric Maligi managed to get in on the Harrison twins to the point where they expanded their original list of Kentucky, Baylor, Maryland and Villanova to include SMU, which joins the Big East in 2013.
“SMU is something that definitely intrigues them,” Aaron Harrison Sr. told SNY.tv Thursday.
Brown, a Brooklyn native, knows that with the Mustangs headed to join the likes of Louisville, UConn, Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, Marquette, Memphis and Temple in 2013, they will have to upgrade their talent lcvel.
“We realize going from Conference USA to the Big East with all the great programs and all the great coaches that we have to upgrade our talent,” he said. “You know, [former SMU coach] Matt [Doherty] recruited guys to play in Conference USA.
“And the ones that we have, we gotta make better. And the ones that we hopefully try to recruit in the future are guys that can play at the highest level.”
Brown declined to comment specifically on Turner, who was arrested on an “extreme DUI” shortly before transferring from Arizona to SMU. He is considered a potential future NBA point guard, and could benefit from being around a veteran like Brown.
“I don’t really want to comment on anybody but the thing you really try and do, though, is just get kids who can play,” Brown said. “High-character kids and kids who want to be coached. I’ve coached every kind…Kids make mistakes and we just gotta figure out which ones want to be coached and want to do the right thing. We’re going to try hard to identify those kind of kids.”
Now 71, Brown will be 72 when SMU joins the Big East but says he hopes to be around the league for a while.
“Deep down, my passion’s every bit as great as it was when I was coaching as an assistant and coaching the freshman team,” Brown said.
“I love to teach. I love being around an environment where you’re around college kids. And I respect that conference [Big East] so much and the coaching. And I want to be here for as long as I feel like I can make a difference and contribute.”
He added: “Maybe I’ll be like [former FSU football coach] Bobby Bowden or one of those guys. I don’t know. I try to take care of myself, but I love being in the gym.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.