Former University of Kansas basketball coach Larry Brown will travel to Italy on Saturday night to meet with officials of Italian League team Fiat Torino in anticipation of becoming the Italian League team’s next coach, Brown told The Star on Thursday.
Brown, 77, cautioned that he’s not yet finalized any deal. The team announced Brown’s hiring Wednesday on its official website.
“I think we agreed to agree after we talked, basically,” Brown told The Star. It would be his first head coaching job since leaving SMU after the 2015-16 season. “I’ve not met anybody. I obviously want to coach, but I just want to meet the people and be what they expect. You can’t imagine my phone (blowing up) since all the stuff came out (Wednesday). I’m confident it’ll work out,” he added of finalizing a coaching agreement.
Torino vice president Francesco Forni said in a statement on the team’s website on Wednesday that the team was happy to land Brown.
“The choice of Coach Brown was born, above all, from the consideration of a unique combination of quality, talent, and culture of basketball, that makes him a brilliant coach,” Forni said.
“We are sure that he will help to promote the passion of the sport we love in Turin and beyond and that he will be a formidable tool for the development of skills of our staff. We believe that the language of basketball is universal and having a master of the experience and personality of Coach Brown will be an unprecedented opportunity for all of us, not only from a technical point view but also from a human point of view.”
Brown, the only coach to have won both an NCAA title (KU, 1988) and NBA crown (Detroit Pistons, 2004) would be coaching a European team for the first time.
“I had a lot of people potentially talk to me about coaching over in Europe, coaching in China,” Brown told The Star on Thursday. In September 2016 he explained to The Star he almost landed a job coaching a team in Cantu, Italy.
“I wanted to do something in the NBA, to be honest with you. My hope was some of the people I had a relationship with … I could figure a way I could help. I guess maybe I’m too old. I don’t feel that way.
“It seems the NBA has an idea … the game has changed so much maybe old-school guys, it (game) has passed them by, instead of understanding kids are so much younger and you need more teaching anyway. My hope was share what I was taught. Whatever gives me the best opportunity to do that, I’m hopeful I can. I’ll do my best to see if hopefully this will work out.”
Brown believes coaching in Italy would be extremely rewarding. He’s been there before.
“I had connections in Italy when I was coaching at UCLA,” Brown said. “The Italian National Team sent one of their assistants to stay with me most of the season. I used to go back in the summer to help their players and coaches. When I was at KU, we took the World Junior team over there. We took an NBA all-star team over there. It’d be pretty neat to go over there and help. Coach Smith (Dean, Brown’s mentor) had an unbelievable relationship with their most famous coach, Coach (Sandro) Gamba. A lot of things tie in.”
Brown cited another reason Italy seems like a good destination to coach.
“I’m hoping my daughter would go study there,” he said of Madison, a senior at SMU. “She wants to maybe study overseas. She wants to learn another language. That would be a plus.”
Brown said he didn’t know how long he’d want to coach in Italy.
“Let’s get through 77 first,” he said with a laugh, referring to year No. 77. He turns 78 on Sept. 14.
“The one nice thing being around young kids and coaches, it keeps you young,” Brown said. “Bill (Self), Jay (Wright, Villanova), John (Calipari, Kentucky), Turg (Mark Turgeon, Maryland), Tad (Boyle, Colorado) … they involve you. It’s pretty neat.”
When he doesn’t have a full-time job, Brown likes to travel to practices of the aforementioned coaches as well as coaches of some other pro and college teams.
“The people I’ve coached, the people I’ve played with and played for, that’s pretty neat. It’s nice to share what they taught me," Brown said.
“I mean, I enjoy going to Kentucky and Maryland and Colorado and Kansas, those things are great, but I want to get up early in the morning and go to bed late at night and feel I accomplished something,” he added of being a head coach.
“Guys tell me how much I help them. They are the ones that help me,” he added.