Larry Brown, SMU show Rutgers how far a rebuilding team can go

Kadeem Jack knows about Southern Methodist head coach Larry Brown, met him and lost to him. But the Rutgers men’s basketball junior forward never watched him growing up.

“I used to live in Trinidad, so I didn’t really watch basketball that much,” said Jack, who grew up a soccer fan and first met Brown two years ago at a coaching clinic.

But SMU pounded Jack inside to force 2-for-11 field goal shooting Jan. 21, en route to the Scarlet Knights’ 70-54 defeat.

Rutgers (10-14, 4-7) and the No. 23 Mustangs (19-5, 8-3) last made the NCAA Tournament in 1991 and 1993, respectively. SMU positioned itself in a later phase of rebuilding, likely on the cusp of its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 21 years.

Brown led SMU to a national ranking in only his second year with the team. While Rutgers is far from that caliber, head coach Eddie Jordan expects a different effort tonight than Jan. 21 when the Knights host SMU.

“We’ve had some pretty good efforts since then, outside the Memphis game, I guess,” Jordan said Tuesday post-practice. “We’ve had some pretty good halves. We had a really good two halves against USF. I think guys understand what we have to do to be successful.”

The only person to coach a team to an NCAA and NBA championship enters the Louis Brown Athletic Center with a different résumé than Jordan.

Jordan was 14 when Brown took his first head coaching gig at Davidson in 1969, when he was around for the summer offseason but never coached a game. Brown went on to win it all with Kansas in 1988 and the Detroit Pistons in 2004.

Like Jordan, Brown bounced around NBA head coaching jobs. Brown head coached nine NBA teams and held a reputation for pursuing different coaching gigs even when his team succeeded.

Brown’s Hall of Fame career is as impressive as almost anyone’s, so Jordan still communicates with him.

“Larry is a great coach, a great person,” Jordan said. “I’ve had conversations with him when I just want to get some coaching points. As a matter of fact, we spoke [Monday]. So he’s really solid. He’s been around forever. It’s no surprise that he’s gotten that program on track.”

Brown’s team held Rutgers to 32.7 percent field goal shooting last time out.

“They played much more physical than us,” Jack said. “I think we kind of came out not expecting that. We know it’s going to be a dogfight, a physical game.”

Lately, Jack and junior guard Myles Mack became a consistent offensive duo. Jack scored a career-high 31 points Saturday against South Florida. Mack was a steady second option, scoring 15 and scoring 25 two games earlier Feb. 1 against Houston.

Jordan believes that derives from more than on-court performance. They also have characteristics Rutgers needs for its rebuild to become as successful as SMU’s.

“They were the ones who wanted to stay when everyone was bailing ship,” Jordan said. “So that shows their dedication, loyalty and a lot of pride playing for their school. They’ve been very coachable and a delight to coach actually. They’ve had some ups and downs, but it’s the first year, it’s a new system, new coach, new team.”

Josh Bakan, Correspondent

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