STARS 2 NEW JERSEY 3 (OT)
UTA 72 @ WESTERN KENTUCKY 77
Larry Brown is definitely in new territory running the show at Moody Coliseum. After the guy isn’t used to fans being satisfied with simply playing a ranked opponent tough.
“You walk around here and people congratulate you after you get beat, that’s pretty strange” he said of the days after the Mustangs lost to Louisville. “You’re in Lawrence, Kansas or Westwood or Chapel Hill, they have a heart attack after every loss.”
That comes with the experience of playing and coaching at the highest levels. The experience of being the only basketball coach in history with an NCAA and NBA championship. You don’t know the meaning of moral victories.
And that is exactly the type of attitude needed if things are going to turn around on the Hilltop. And after less than two years, it looks like things already are.
With Tuesday’s win over Rutgers, SMU’s team already matched its win total from last year. With 15 wins already and at least 13 games left against the likes of Memphis, UConn and Louisville again, the path is set for SMU to build a good enough record to get into that magical field in March one way or another.
It’s not just the fact that other coaches within the American Athletic Conference are saying SMU looks like a Tournament team this year. Could DFW actually have a program that could be able to aim for the NCAA Tournament every single year?
Well, that’s what Larry Brown’s mission was when he took over this program. Some people who have been jaded by decades of college basketball mediocrity might be hard to convince. But you just know someone like Brown would love to prove them wrong.
Ask him, and he’ll tell you he can look into players’ eyes and see when they know they can win. He saw it in the players at Louisville and Cincinnati when the Mustangs traveled there. And little by little, with each victory, that look is starting to appear in his own players.
This is naturally a different animal that he’s dealing with in Dallas. Whether it was playing at SMU or coaching at UCLA or Kansas, Brown was with a program that was a big dog in the area. Now, it takes something special to get people away from Valley Ranch or the American Airlines Center and show up to the media center at Moody Coliseum.
But when you’ve accomplished almost everything else at so many stops, maybe that’s the one challenge that remains. And it’s the challenge that those college basketball fans that do exist in the Metroplex have hoped someone like Brown would take on – and succeed at.
For years those of us who have followed college basketball in this area have had to hope that one of the multiple programs in North Texas could simply get luck in the conference tournament for an automatic bid, or otherwise be thankful for an NIT, or even a CIT, bid.
Even those of us who have ties to one particular university in the area would be ecstatic to see any one of them send a Metroplex representative in The Dance each year.
TCU could have had something like that in the late 90s under Billy Tubbs. But an NCAA season in 97-98 was overshadowed by a 1-10 football season, so the school put all its efforts to what went on at Amon Cater Stadium, and Tubbs was gone a few years later, clearly seeing the writing on the wall.
Things are different in University Park now. With their major upgrades to Moody and the completion of the Crum Basketball Center, it’s clear SMU is committed to taking its basketball program to another level.
Larry Brown wouldn’t have come here if he didn’t think that was possible. And even though it already looks like things are being fast-tracked compared to what we’ve been used to in this town, he knows there is still a lot more work and improvement to do.
And maybe very soon, he’ll start being congratulated for the Mustangs winning against the likes of Louisville.