It’s going to be neat having coaching legend Larry Brown in Bud Walton Arena Monday night. In addition to a very good SMU team, the Hall of Famer brings a one-of-a-kind resume to the Basketball Palace of Mid America. The SMU job is Brown’s 13th as a head coach. That includes stints in the ABA, NBA and the college ranks. Some of us are old enough to remember him as a player in ABA, a gritty point guard from Brooklyn who’d do pretty much anything to win. He’s a basketball lifer. A proven winner who has starred on the sport’s biggest stages.
Brown’s return also sparks memories of the last time he was here. He brought a sixth-ranked Kansas team into Barnhill Arena in early December, 1986. Nolan Richardson was in his second season and had yet to earn a signature win. The Jayhawks featured Danny Manning, among others, and would go on to win the national championship the following season. That night in Barnhill, though, belonged to the Razorbacks, who rode the 3-point shooting of Tim Scott to a 103-86 victory. A young assistant named Mike Anderson was at Richardson’s side on the Arkansas bench. It was a great night to be a Razorback.
Since then Brown has held no less than seven NBA head coaching jobs before returning to the college ranks last season. He has the Mustangs moving up with a bullet. The top junior college player in the country and a McDonald’s All-American are on the roster now, and at 2-0, the Ponies will be a stiff challenge and then some for the Razorbacks.
The Hogs’ win over Louisiana was impressive on many levels. First, the Cajuns are good, and its certain the Razorbacks won’t face a better point guard than the one they faced Friday night. It took 35 minutes for the relentless pressure defense to break the Cajuns, but when it happened Arkansas closed the game on a 17-3 run to win by 13. Michael Qualls scored 16 points for the second straight game and added eight rebounds and five assists. Bobby Portis played some of his best basketball in the second half, and Alandise Harris continues to establish himself as a clutch, go-to player.
Tonight’s matchup is the Hogs’ last game before leaving for Hawaii later this week. The opponents are getting progressively tougher. In the end, it’s about the players on the floor, but it will be fun to watch Mike Anderson match wits with a legend.