When the NCAA last year meted out its sanctions against the SMU Mustangs, sanctions that included a postseason ban and suspension of head coach Larry Brown, I posed a simple question: What did the school expect when it hired Brown?
Nine months later as Brown announces his sudden resignation, reportedly over a contract dispute, it's time to ask the same question.
What did SMU expect?
Reality TV cultivates longer-lasting relationships than hiring Brown. Since 1965, he has cashed paychecks from 15 different employers. Forget a rocking chair or watch for years of service. For Brown, staying put long enough to become fully vested in a 401(k) plan is considered an accomplishment. He spent six seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, which in Brown parlance counts as longevity.
The country is littered with his resignation papers, from Los Angeles, where he resigned ahead of the NCAA posse at UCLA, to New Jersey, where he bolted after the Nets stumbled; in America's heartland, where he departed Kansas amid more NCAA trouble; and in the South, where he decided not to join the Carolina Cougars when they relocated to St. Louis; from the West, where he left the Denver Nuggets after two years, to the Southwest, where he left the Spurs midway through the season.
You could call that nomadic.
Narcissistic would be more accurate.
On April 7, 1969, Brown landed his first head-coaching job, using his connections with his college coach, Dean Smith, to get the top gig at Davidson. In a newspaper clipping from The Dispatch, the 28-year-old Brown said, "I will be coaching at a school I have always respected and I hope we can carry on the same high traditions.''
On July 3, 1969 -- a whopping 91 days later -- he left Davidson to carry on those high traditions without him, resigning his position. He hadn't so much as coached a practice, let alone a game (his tenure was so short, in fact, it doesn't even make his Wikipedia bio page). He later claimed the school didn't live up to its promises.
That, of course, is a common refrain. The school, the NBA franchise, some organization always fails to live up to promises made to Brown.
This time it is SMU on the wrong side of the tracks. Brown reportedly wanted a five-year contract extension. School administrators, perhaps considering the 75-year-old had just led the university down the trenches of an NCAA investigation and into a postseason ban and other sanctions, thought a two- or three-year deal might make more sense (which is rather generous if you consider the totality of things). Brown disagreed and so, just two days into the vicious recruiting cycle, he packed up his whistle and left.
Just like always, skipping out of town without care or responsibility. UCLA sanctions? Kansas violations so egregious an NCAA official once joked the Jayhawks were "on the bubble" for the death penalty? Misunderstandings and misinformation twisted for the NCAA's benefit.
The man who preaches his love for "his kids" spent most of last season bemoaning the fact that the NCAA wrongly penalized Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy with a postseason ban when they weren't guilty of any wrongdoing.
Which is true.
It's also true that Larry Brown was guilty of NCAA wrongdoing and thereby he did his players wrong. He broke promises to them, promises to be honorable, to obey NCAA rules and to, as crazy as it sounds, prohibit secretaries from doing an athlete's coursework. Had he kept those promises the NCAA would not have visited campus and Moore and Kennedy would have enjoyed the fruits of their regular-season labor in March.
Except that would never occur to Brown, the perennially put-upon victim. For all the college and NBA teams who have let him down, he never once recognized the people he has let down as well.
Because if there are two truisms in his illustrious career, it is these:
The man is a brilliant basketball mind, one of the best coaches to walk across a court.
And above everything and everyone, Larry Brown is loyal to Larry Brown first, second and always. The first truism means someone will hire him somewhere. The second means his next employer, too, will eventually be stood up, discarded or disappointed.
The only sign of progress in this entire ordeal is that SMU at least had the good sense to name Tim Jankovich as its coach-in-waiting. The school, at least, realized that with Brown there is no such thing as a long-term commitment, and that Jankovich wasn't going to be Mike Hopkins, the Prince Charles of college hoops forever waiting for Syracuse King Jim Boeheim to resign.
No, the school hired Jankovich a mere nine days after it announced Brown would be the head coach because administrators knew they'd need a backup plan.
With Larry Brown, what else would you expect?