Emmanuel Mudiay chooses SMU, Larry Brown


The Hall of Fame coach made a huge splash on Saturday, as SMU beat out Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State for one of the top players in the class of 2014.

As of Saturday night, the rest of college basketball should firmly take notice: Larry Brown isn't joking around at SMU. After landing Dallas-area prospect Emmanuel Mudiay, ranked No. 5 in the class of 2014 by ESPN, the Mustangs should be on the radar of fans nationwide.

Like all elite recruits, Mudiay had his choice of practically any college program in the country. That meant being wooed by powerhouses like Kansas and Kentucky, two perennial national title contenders. However, through the rubble of campus visits, coaches meetings and scholarship offers, Mudiay ended up choosing SMU.

Before Brown arrived in Dallas last season, the Mustangs were the farthest thing from a recruiting power. They're set to enter the newly minted American Athletic Conference, exactly 20 years since their last appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In the last five seasons, they've gone 71-89, including a 15-17 record in Brown's first year.

For Brown, turning around a flailing SMU program would simply be the latest in a long procession of impressive coaching stints. While he's eventually worn out his welcome at practically every stop along the way, his track record has always allowed him to land on his feet.

Over the last 40 years, Brown has coached two of the premier programs in college basketball (Kansas and UCLA) as well as nine different NBA teams. He's the only head coach to win a championship in both the NCAA (1988 Kansas Jayhawks) and the NBA (2004 Detroit Pistons).

His last stint in the NBA came with the Charlotte Bobcats. In 2010, Brown led the Bobcats to a 44-38 record, the only playoff appearance in franchise history. However, he stepped down the next season amidst whispers about conflicts with team owner Michael Jordan, a recurring issue throughout Brown's career.

At the age of 70, many assumed that Brown would retire following his time in Charlotte. However, the basketball lifer was unable to leave the game behind, turning up at SMU in 2012. Upon arriving on campus, Brown made recruiting the Dallas area his top priority, culminating in his pursuit of Mudiay.

Described by Draft Express as an "extremely unique combination of size, length, athleticism and instincts at the point guard position," Mudiay was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. As an athletic 6'4 PG, Mudiay has drawn comparisons to players like John Wall on the recruiting circuit.

For the 72-year old Brown, landing Mudiay, and beating out the likes of John Calipari and Bill Self in the process, is as big an accomplishment as anything that could happen on the court. Getting into the fertile Dallas recruiting game will be key to SMU's long-term success, which often starts with convincing an elite player like Mudiay to be a trailblazer.

The college basketball scene has changed a lot in the 25 years since Brown left Kansas for the NBA, but some things appear to have stayed the same. Namely, Brown's ability to connect with and teach basketball players. He tends to rub management the wrong way after a while, but nobody ever questioned Brown's ability to coach winning teams.

With Mudiay set to enroll for the 2014-2015 season, SMU could have one of its most competitive teams in decades. If the top prospects in Dallas begin taking the school seriously, we could be talking about an entirely new era of Mustangs basketball.

This is what Larry Brown does. He survives, he advances, he keeps winning basketball games. We'll just have to see if SMU can sustain it all once he's gone.

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