Q&A with Larry Brown
Q: What are your thoughts on being ranked 23rd in the country?
LB: "Well, I was more excited when I got up early this morning and went over to see a bunch of students camping out trying to get tickets. That to me is far more meaningful than being ranked. It's pretty neat to have a student body and people on campus caring about our team."
Q: How much of a compliment is it to your players to be ranked?
LB: "I'm happy for all of them because they have been talking about this since the beginning of the season. We have had some chances to get ourselves in that position, but to finally get there, when you look back and see we were able to beat Memphis, Temple and Cincinnati in the past week. Those three programs and what they have been able to accomplish over the years, it's a huge step for us."
Q: Is it a bigger challenge now?
LB: "Yeah, Thursday is going to be a huge challenge for us because the great teams, the ones that are all ranked, win games they are supposed to win and expect to win. They know that you cant have a let down. We haven't experienced that. The closest thing to that was the South Florida game. We didn't recognize the fact that that was a Big East team with a lot pride, and we didn't realize its not just about showing up. I think it will be the first time that somebody else can say we are playing a ranked team when we walk into the building, which will be pretty nice."
Q: Does this feel the same as being ranked at the other schools you have coached?
LB: "Well, you do it at Kansas and UCLA, and it's not as big of a deal. I didn't establish those programs. I was lucky enough to be a part of the tradition at North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA, but there were people that had done great things there. This program was highly thought of, but it was a long time ago. We were hopeful when we came here that we could be a really terrific program that played at a high level, and I thought it would happen, but I didn't know when. We certainly have a lot of things we still have to accomplish, but just to see the excitement from our students and fans has been much better than ever expected. It maybe more meaningful, but I don't know that's pretty hard. When I went to UCLA, I was setting records like crazy. First coach to lose the opening game, first coach to lose two in a row at Pauley, first coach to lose a home game against USC, and first coach not to finish in the top-3 in the Pac-8. I was setting records like crazy, but this is the best. When I woke up this morning and I went down to the stadium to see all those kids and how happy they were, I think this is as flattering as anything I have been associated with."
Q: Why do you think everything has happened so quickly?
LB: "I think we all felt everything was in place here. The school is great. Dallas is great. What Mark (Cuban) has done with the Mavericks helps anybody that's a part of basketball. There is great talent around here. We are in a great conference. Everything is in place, but I didn't know we could assemble a group like this. The transfers we got and the recruits we have, plus the kids we retained with Matt (Doherty) are all a big part of this. It has given us an opportunity to play at the highest level. I was with Nick (Russell) and Shawn (Williams) today. Their example and their leadership has been a big part of this. You look at the contribution of the freshman and the transfers, and it's given us a chance to be pretty good."
Q: How do you tell these kids not to get caught up in the praise?
LB: "I want them to be proud of what they have done, but I think we talked about this from the first day we got here. We want to compete at the highest level and it doesn't just happen. I think they understand that. They should be proud of what's going on, but I hope they are not satisfied. We are certainly not. I didn't mean this disrespectfully, but when you storm the court at home it makes me realize you haven't had much success. It was nice for them to enjoy that and share that with our players, but I would hope in the future that we are excited because we beat a team we are expected to beat and we get ready for the next one."
Q: When was the last time fans stormed the court for one of your team's wins?
LB: "Well, I remember being on the other end a lot being at UCLA and Kansas. A lot of people were pretty excited about some of the losses we had. I have never been apart of it from that end. Ever. That was my first one. I didn't know how to act because we had to sing our Alma matter. Now, we were rushed in Detroit but that was different (jokingly). This was my first time."
Q: What was the student's reaction to you bringing coffee and donuts this morning?
LB: "I just think they were excited to be there and be a part of this. That is the best thing that has happened. I think they all feel like they have been a big part of this and I think its true. The atmosphere in that building is phenomenal. Allen Fieldhouse gets loud and enthusiastic and Pauley Pavilion was phenomenal, but I can't imagine any place being better than this. Not to my knowledge."
Q: What about Ben Moore's performance this week as AAC Rookie of the Week?
LB: "His biggest problem is his coach doesn't know how to use him. He just gets better everyday. He gets better in practice. I was thrilled because he doesn't show much emotion and after the game, I could see he was pretty excited. That pumped me up a little bit. They were pressing us, and he is a great ball handler so he helped relieve the pressure. He can do a lot of things and I know he wants to get better. We got to figure out how to help."
Q: How satisfied are you with your rotation and how the players have reacted to splitting minutes?
LB: "I would be surprised if it didn't bother them. I would be disappointed if they all didn't want to play. I just spoke to Shawn and Nick. Ryan (Manuel) didn't get to play. Cannen (Cunningham) played great in the first half and only got to play a few seconds in the second half. They were just excited as anybody after the game. You don't find that in a lot of places, but I'm having a hard time with that. Last year was easy. I just played five guys. Now, I go home after each game worrying about who didn't get enough time and what I could have done different to help. I'm not enjoying that part."
Q: How are you guys building tradition in this new arena?
LB: "I thought even our small crowds last year were great because they were loud and enthusiastic. The best part of this to me is that it brings SMU together. I have been getting calls from old players about how proud they are. The response of the students is great. We can have a great crowd, but if you don't have a good team it doesn't matter. We would just have a pretty building. I think the biggest thing is they appreciate what the players are doing. That's why they are there. That's why they are enthusiastic. Everywhere I have been, I have been lucky enough to play where the crowd actually has mattered. They make us play better than we know how. They pick us up. I'll give you an example. We had four straight turnovers against the press on Saturday, but the crowd kept us in the game. I know it affects teams coming in here, especially young kids. You can say you can handle pressure and stuff like that, but I heard mixed comments that their coach though they lost their pose a little bit. That happened because the enthusiasm of the crowd."
Q: Are you surprised the AAC conference has five teams in the Top 25?
LB: "Well that helps us. It helps our strength of schedule and our resume if you're lucky enough to get in the tournament. I think we are all proud of that, but you expect Cincinnati, Connecticut, Memphis, and Louisville to be in there. You would almost expect Temple because Fran (Dunphy) has done it every year expect for this. But to have us included in their with those programs is phenomenal."
Q: After what happened at the end of your NBA coaching career, do you feel like you needed to be successful at this job for your legacy?
LB: "Well, we made the playoffs the year before my last half season. I don't feel like it didn't end right. Michael (Jordan) thought it didn't go right. We got rid of (Tyson) Chandler, (Raymond) Felton and had all the injuries we had. Even Michael couldn't get that team to where he wanted to. I needed to be around kids and be around coaches and be in the gym personally. If you look at my background and who I have played for and coaches with, I have always wanted to share what they taught me before it would be too late. I would have been happy being a high school coach or working in management in the NBA. I never imagined it could be like this for me at 73. This is like going back to when I was a freshman coach at North Carolina. I feel the exactly same way until I look in the mirror. I still love coming to practice. I have the same passion being around our coaches. I don't think anybody at my age deserves this. I love it and I feel very fortunate. I don't know about the need. I just know I needed to be around basketball, and I think the best part is I'm getting to tell people about things I was taught."
On being ranked:
"It's great, but we are going game by game. We can't get caught up in being ranked 23rd. We are still trying to climb ladders and we still got to get better."
On the fans:
"That means a lot to us. Yesterday we had study hall until 9 pm, and I just saw tent after tent after tent. You just know that we are giving back to the university, but they are also supporting us too."
On Coach Brown's reaction to the ranking
"You know Coach has been in so many situations that this is nothing to him. We still need to look at it like we haven't done anything yet. We need to keep our mindset and go moment by moment. That number really doesn't mean anything if we don't keep getting better."
On the crowd on Saturday
"Words don't even explain. After Nick Russell got the turnover and dunked, that was the loudest I have ever heard a gym in my life."
On being ranked:
"Its cool. It's a good experience. We just want to go out there, win every game and play hard."
On the fans:
"I think it's amazing. I think we have some of the greatest fans in the country. They are great. It was my first time being apart of a court storming, and I got mobbed, but I loved it."
On winning AAC Rookie of the Week:
"I think just trying to find my role and work with my teammates. I'm just playing my role."
On Larry Brown's influence:
"When I came here, I knew we were going to have a new group coming in. I feel like we had a chance to do big things and its worked out pretty good. We are having fun and winning. Larry Brown has brought this program to something amazing. He is great. He is like a father."
On being ranked:
"It's a step forward. Its cool being ranked and all, but we got much more to worry about than rankings. We are trying to win a national championship and make the Final Four. That's our goal."
On being ranked:
"I feel a lot better than I did Friday night. It feels good. You see the handwork pay off a little bit. We just want to let people know we are happy, but we are not settling for this and we have a lot more in store."
On not being satisfied:
"When Coach Brown first got here, our goal was to win a national championship and we haven't accomplished that yet. We aren't really happy yet."
Larry Brown, Players React To Ranking
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