NORTH AUGUSTA — Venerable basketball coach Larry Brown hit the trifecta this week. Brown listed watching basketball, seeing young talented players and the South as some of his loves. The Nike Peach Jam offered Brown a chance to experience all three.
“This is incredible all around; it's a good facility, plus there's unbelievable coaching and talent here,” the SMU head coach said Friday while taking in the action at Riverview Park Activities Center. “Not to mention, I get to visit with guys that have been a big part of my life that are coaching other places.”
Brown's coaching career has taken him to various places across the nation. He has manned the sidelines in locales ranging from Kansas in the NCAA ranks to New York in the NBA and North Carolina in both the NBA and ABA. However, he seems to be readjusting to life as a college coach pretty well.
“When I'm here, I'm aware of all these great coaches, and it reminds me it's a challenge,” Brown said, admitting that the college game is a much different task than coaching in the NBA.
The 72-year-old is the only man in the coaching fraternity to have success at both the college and professional level. Brown won a NCAA championship with Kansas in 1988 and an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Brown said the main difference is the fight to land recruits. “(In the NBA) you draft them, pay them and they come to play. Here you hope to establish a relationship with them and wish they would consider coming to play for you,” he said.
Brown said he realizes the likes of Tom Izzo, Bill Self and John Calipari and other big-name coaches grab the attention of the players. But he feels he and SMU have much to offer potential players. Brown took over the Mustang program last season and led them to a 15-17 mark in his first year. He knows that landing some top prospects would go a long way in helping turn the program around.
“Physically I look for guys with no neck, long arms, long legs and are athletic as hell,” Brown said laughing. “On the mental side, I want to see kids that respect coaching, play hard and love the game ... it'd be nice to get those types of guys in Dallas.”
Brownell busy in the CSRA
One half of the Palmetto State's big two head coaches has been making his way around the CSRA. South Carolina coach Frank Martin is away coaching at the World University Games in Russia, but Clemson's Brad Brownell has been traveling the area in search of Clemson's potential next big star.
The Peach Jam isn't the only tournament featuring some of the nation's top talent in the Aiken-Augusta Area. The Peach State tournament is being held at USC Aiken, and the Elite Youth Invitational has been holding games at various gyms in Augusta.
Brownell has made a visit to each of them and said many of the Clemson's needs could be filled by the talent in the area this week.
“There's great talent at every tournament,” Brownell said. “(The other tournaments) all kind of piggy-backed off the Peach Jam, and it's great for us because we can go to multiple tournaments in one area.”
Tubby back in familiar territory
Tubby Smith has been coming to the Peach Jam for more than a decade to scout potential players. This year marked the first time he's done so as the head coach of Texas Tech. Smith landed in Lubbock shortly after being ousted at Minnesota following a run to the NCAA Tournament.
Smith is looking forward to the opportunity he has with the Red Raiders. He also wouldn't mind having some of the talent on display at the Peach Jam.
“At this level you know they have to be talented, so I look at how the relationship with their teammates is, how they respond to the atmosphere and how they take the coaching,” he said.
Smith added that he believes the Texas Tech program can recruit well across the nation, as evidenced by one of his recent additions, Robert Turner of Augusta. Turner, a former Aquinas High School star, became the first to sign during in Smith's tenure back in May. Smith expects the New Mexico junior college transfer to be the starter at point guard this season.
“Another great thing about the region, the talent,” Smith said of the area he's fond of. “It's always a good to come to the area. I have a lot of connections here and some family members in the Aiken area, and the folks do a great job of putting on the tournament.”
Smith said he's currently “loving it in Lubbock,” but he's enjoying his time in North Augusta this week as well.
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.