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CBSSports.com National Columnist

SMU hires Brown to win, for attention -- but not the right kind


Brown is the only man to win NBA (shown here with the Pistons) and NCAA championships. (Getty Images)  
Brown is the only man to win NBA (shown here with the Pistons) and NCAA championships. (Getty Images)  

Well, the joke's on me -- because here I am, writing about SMU basketball. SMU was seeking attention when it hired Larry Brown, and what do you know? SMU has my attention.

But the joke's also on SMU, because this isn't a happy story. It's angry, and it's going to get angrier, and SMU has only SMU to blame -- because it's like I said: SMU hired Larry Brown for attention.

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Soak it up, Ponies.

SMU athletics director Steve Orsini got desperate, as so many athletics directors do when they start a coaching search with grand dreams -- honest to God, Orsini thought he could pry Buzz Williams away from Marquette -- before finding themselves inside a laugh track. Desperate, Orsini quelled the laughter by hiring the biggest name he could get. It's like he was saying, "Laugh at me now."

Impossible. Because SMU basketball is no longer funny. Now it's dislikable.

Pretty much the first thing Brown did as SMU's coach was meet with his players individually, telling at least four of them they weren't his players after all. Sorry, you four, but you're not good enough to play for SMU. Not Larry Brown's SMU, because Larry Brown didn't go to SMU to finish below .500. He went to SMU to win and to win big, and maybe he'll do it. The guy knows basketball at a level that would intimidate most basketball coaches, and SMU overpaid for the best staff it could get, meaning Brown won't have to recruit much -- which is ideal, seeing how he has a reputation for not really liking young athletes. How he'll coach a team full of them, I don't know.

Four are gone already. Four SMU players in presumably good academic standing are finished playing basketball at SMU. School's out. Larry Brown is in. From here on out, basketball is business at SMU.

That's the message Larry Brown sent to those four players, the rest of the team, and every recruit stupid enough to consider SMU going forward. That's the guy Steve Orsini hired because he was tired of being laughed at. Orsini hired Brown for some attention.

Lap it up, Orsini.

Jeremiah Samarrippas was an SMU guard and team captain. Key word: Was. (Getty Images)  
Jeremiah Samarrippas was an SMU guard and team captain. Key word: Was. (Getty Images)  
One of the four players Brown cut was a team captain -- sophomore point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas. Brown told him, in Samarrippas' own words, "I wasn't good enough to play for him."

Before being told he wasn't good enough, Samarrippas told the SMU Daily Campus, "I was excited to play with Larry Brown because he's a Hall of Famer."

Apparently the Hall of Famer wasn't excited to coach Jeremiah Samarrippas.

Orsini brags that Samarrippas and (at least) three other teammates cut by Brown -- Ricmonds Vilde, Leslee Smith and Eric Norman -- can stay on scholarship. They just can't play on the team, as if college basketball players go to school to major in something other than basketball.

With Steve Orsini's blessing, Larry Brown has provided the latest reason to marvel at the hypocrisy of the NCAA, where coaches come and go -- hired, fired, whatever -- while players are at the mercy of those same coaches. Wisconsin's Bo Ryan infamously tried to bully Jarrod Uthoff when the redshirt freshman wanted to transfer this spring, and FIU did the same to Dominique Ferguson.

The NCAA is broken, broken in a way that makes you think NCAA president Mark Emmert is just too callous to see it, but that's a story for another day. Today's story is Larry Brown -- and maybe he'll win big at SMU. He won an NCAA title at Kansas and came close at UCLA, and he won an NBA title with the Pistons. He's the only guy in history to win championships at both levels, and if this is starting to read like a recruiting pamphlet for Larry Brown, you're not paying attention. Because I'm saying a kid would be foolish to play for Brown, and parents would be negligent to let their child play for Larry Brown.

Brown doesn't like coaching younger players. Never has. That's not me talking, either. That's his rep in NBA circles, a rep he cemented at the 2004 Olympics when he benched three of the world's best players -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony -- because he prefers older guys. Maybe when Brown took this job he got the initials wrong, thinking he'd be coaching BYU instead of SMU.

I don't know. I can't make sense of this hire. Maybe Brown's staff can get young NBA-bound talent, but how is Brown going to relate to that young NBA-bound talent -- tell them about the time he benched LeBron, Melo and D-Wade and watched Team USA slink to the bronze in 2004? Brown's best bet at winning big at SMU is to put together a veteran team that can do his bidding by his third or fourth season, but Brown doesn't do third or fourth seasons. In 13 stops, his average coaching tenure is about 2½ years.

Does Steve Orsini really believe it'll be any different at SMU?

Larry Brown is 71 years old. You see him coaching this group at age 75? I don't, but Orsini didn't hire Brown for the future. He hired Brown for the present, for the attention. So here I am, dutifully providing some more. See this story, Orsini? This is what you wanted.

Read it and weep.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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