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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Larry Brown to Coach at Princeton?

I suppose I'm in the mood for writing provocative headlines these days, but in reviewing who's looked at this blog recently, I noticed that one of you Googled "Larry Brown to Coach at Princeton."

And that got me to thinking.

Okay, so he's in his 60's, and, yes, his latest gig wasn't a success, and, further, he was making a ton of money (over $5 million a year) and got 8 figures in his divorce settlement from the Knicks (where he worked indirectly for a Princeton alum and former outstanding hoopster and still one of the all-around nicest guys, Steve Mills, Class of 1981). But he's available, he lives in suburban Philadelphia, he visited Princeton during the last NBA strike (when Bill Carmody was the coach) a few times to get a sense of the Princeton system (and enjoyed the visits very much), and he's been nomadic throughout his coaching career. He's been successful everywhere he's been, he's turned program after program around, and he's coached an NCAA champion and an NBA champion. The challenges for him are probably more eclectic now, and, well, this type of challenge could intrigue him (I had heard that in the mid-1960's Brown had applied for the Princeton job -- as had Bob Knight -- when Pete Carril got it, but I haven't been able to confirm that Brown actually had applied; he only would have been in his early 20's at the time and unlikely to have received serious consideration). Finally, Brown's a member of the Carolina family, and that's one of the most special "families" in college basketball.

He lives nearby. He has the resume. He doesn't need the money (which is a good thing, because the Ivies don't pay what the Kentuckys will). He and his wife have young kids, they like the Philadelphia area, and Princeton isn't that far away.

Makes total sense, doesn't it?

Gary Walters, a loyal son of Princeton, the AD and the PG on the Bill Bradley Final Four team, wants to leave a legacy for his beloved men's hoops program, which arguably is the signature program in the Princeton athletic department. In hiring Brown, he hires a top-notch coach who should be able to recruit and give Penn a run for its money. Moreover, he also could work with Brown to cultivate a successor or two on Brown's staff. After all, many a young coach would relish the opportunity to work with the Hall of Famer.

The more you think about it, the more the appeal is there, isn't it?

Of course, there are a few details, such as recruiting and having a good sense of the Ivy way of doing things. You'll recall that when at Kansas Brown hired a former pro named Ed Manning (who most recently before then had been driving a truck) as an assistant coach. If you didn't know better, you'd say that Brown was doing an old colleague a favor and showing magnanimity. But those of you with longer memories will remember that Manning's son, Danny, was the top HS player at the time, and he opted to go to Kansas (Dad was hired before Son had to make his decision), where he led the Jayhawks to an NCAA title. Needless to say, you can't be that creative in your personnel decisions in the Ivies. It also helps if the kid has good grades and SAT scores and might want a career working in investment banking instead of banking the ball off the glass from behind the arc.

Then again, Brown now lives on Philadelphia's elite Main Line and sends his kids to a very elite private school (the one that gave the ACC both Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson), and that school (Episcopal Academy) is a feeder for the Ivies. So, just by osmosis, he probably knows more about the Ivies than he has in the past, and, to paraphrase Bill Murray in "Caddyshack," he has that going for him.

So what will Gary Walters do? He probably can't pay Coach Brown more than a quarter of a million to coach hoops, and there are no booster clubs to pick up the difference (Ivies, I think, don't permit that sort of thing). But for Coach Brown, money can't be an object, at least any more, thanks to the largesse of the Dolan family. If that's the case, then why not accept a challenge to help re-build a storied college basketball program, the one that gave the world Bill Bradley, the Princeton Offense and the classic 1989 almost-upset of Georgetown?

My guess is that both men would be intrigued by the possibility.

Even if it were to mean, for Coach Brown, a rented bus to games instead of a chartered plane, staying at Best Westerns instead of Four Seasons, and coaching players who might only be able to go to their right, who can't jump more than the width of a Princeton-area phone directory, and who don't have the best upper-body strength. How would he react then?

Then again, he'd be coaching players who would soak up his every word, a fan base that would welcome his hiring with open arms, players who don't have hangers on and agents and shoe companies telling them how to play the game. He'd be coaching players with appreciative parents and in an area where basketball, to a degree, could be more pure than it was in one of the game's meccas, Madison Square Garden.

Maybe that's what Coach Brown is looking for -- a place to coach where the players really listen, where the distractions are few, and where he can have one more gig purely for the love of the game.

If that's where Larry Brown's head is, Princeton should hire him in a heartbeat.

And boy it would be fun to watch!


Blogger Escort81 said...

I can see the post game interviews now -- the woe-is-me expression: "Just trying to get our guys to play the right way."

Great idea. I'm for it.

I did ask a friend who was going to a small Obama fundraiser make sure that Obama would remember to ask his brother-in-law Craig Robinson (PU '83) to take the job. Hopefully, Craig received the message.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Cliff said...

Or if Coach Brown really wants a challenge, perhaps he'd be even more interested in the Harvard job!

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommy Amaker to Harvard! How far his star has fallen after a surprisingly poor showing at Michigan.

I would think that he will show well in recruiting at Harvard, though. He's very polished.

Another tough challenge for whoever takes over at Princeton.


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