Larry Brown spent his 76th birthday Wednesday playing in a charity golf tournament in New York and fielding a batch of phone calls from loved ones and friends.
One of the well-wishers was Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, a graduate assistant on Brown’s KU staff during the 1985-86 Final Four season.
“He texted me. He invited me to come hang out,” said Brown, who has also has heard from his former pupils now at Kentucky (John Calipari), Maryland (Mark Turgeon) and Colorado (Tad Boyle), as well as Villanova’s Jay Wright, Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner and others who’d like Brown to watch some of their practices during the upcoming college campaign.
“I told him (Self) I was a little worried about being a distraction. He asked me to please come. If I don’t get a real job I’m going to be around Bill as much as I can. I admire the hell out of him,” added Brown, who resigned his head coaching job at SMU in July after four full seasons (94-39 record) in Dallas.
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Brown — the only coach in history to win both an NCAA (KU, 1988) and NBA (Detroit, 2004) title — makes it clear his first preference would be to continue his Hall of Fame coaching career.
“I can’t retire,” Brown said Thursday in a phone conversation with the Star.
“I didn’t handle it (not working) well after Charlotte (fired him in 2011). I was so lucky that SMU (hired him in 2013). … First, Stanford offered me a job but I was afraid to move, which was dumb. I landed on my feet having the chance at SMU. I just think I need to be doing something and contributing in some way.”
Brown recently had feelers from an overseas team.
“I almost took a job in Italy. It was really a great opportunity but they didn’t think I had enough international experience,” he said of a team in Cantu. “I kinda got tickled by that (reasoning),” he added, laughing, “but it was OK. I’ll land on my feet.”
He’s currently exploring another opportunity.
“There’s a high school in East Hampton (N.Y.) where I’m currently staying. I’m going to speak to the AD there,” said Brown, who indicated the opening is for head coach.
“If I do that, I can’t do it halfway. They told me I can still speak and go to colleges, but I don’t want to cheat the kids. So if I’m going to do it, I’ll do it 100 percent. I’ve got so much I’ve been taught from players (he worked with) and coaches I played for. I just want to share it somehow.”
Brown — last week he presented his former Philadelphia 76ers guard, Allen Iverson, for induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — also has considered starting a basketball academy with former NBA players.
“I want to teach,” Brown said, noting he wants to be a coach, not a trainer. “I’ve got to figure a way to continue doing this in some capacity.”
Brown, a former standout guard at North Carolina (1960-63) and in the pro ranks (1967-72), has always looked younger than his age, perhaps because he’s been physically fit his entire life.
“The only thing (regarding age) … I don’t look in the mirror and I don’t celebrate birthdays. I don’t think there’s any difference in my passion than when I was a young coach,” Brown said. “I hope somebody in some way realizes I could be an asset, but we’ll just wait and see.”
He conceded: “I’m kind of lost. I’m getting all kinds of calls from major-college programs inviting me to do clinics or spend time with them which has been phenomenal.”
He hasn’t thought much about spending his free time writing a book.
“If I ever did one,” Brown said, “it’d be a teaching book because think about who I played for: Alex Hannum (Denver Rockets, ABA), Mr. Iba (Henry, 1964 Olympics), John McLendon (1964 Olympic assistant), coach Smith (Dean, North Carolina), Frank McGuire (North Carolina). Pete Newell was a big person in my life and people I sat next to. I think at some point I’d like to do a teaching book and do it the right way, but I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Brown has never been shy about recalling favorite moments of his years at KU (1984-88).
“I am in love with that place,” he said of Lawrence. “I am in awe of what Bill has done, what Roy (Williams) did and what that program has meant going forward. I don’t know of any place that has ever treated anybody any better than they treated me (in five seasons) and have continued to do so.
“I remember being with (late Hall of Fame coach) Chuck Daly and we were talking about neat things that happen in your life and sometimes you never really get to enjoy it. He said, ‘Larry some day you will be driving down the highway and have a big grin on your face and not know why and you will realize you are thinking about something really neat that has happened in your basketball life or family life.’ He’s right.
“I don’t know if I did realize at that time how special that (1988 NCAA title) team was and what an unbelievable accomplishment it was when you consider all the adversity. Then I realize we had the best player in the world (Danny Manning) and group of unbelievable kids with him. I am enjoying it now,” Brown added, noting he still smiles at the thought of the late Ed Manning, an assistant coach on that team, hugging his son after the NCAA title win over Oklahoma.
“The first person I looked for (after final horn) was Ed. I was saying to myself, ‘Wow can you imagine how he must feel seeing what his son just accomplished?’ Now seeing how all those kids on that team turned out? They turned out pretty darn good,” Brown added.