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How Larry Brown Has Changed SMU

Few universities in the entire nation have suffered through years of futility in basketball and football
like SMU. The football program, which quickly turned into a powerhouse in the days of the "Pony Express" was ruined by the infamous death penalty and is still recovering from it, three decades later. The basketball program hasn't made a tournament appearance since 1993, a first round loss to BYU. That is changing soon, under Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown who has taken the Mustangs from a perennial joke in the Conference USA to a rising program in the first year of the American Athletic Conference. It is an odd story, a coach who has won 1,327 games in the NBA and 212 in college taking over a program that desperately needed a savior.

It appeared maybe the SMU basketball team was turning the corner in 2011 when the team appeared in the Postseason Tournament and went 3-1 before losing in the semifinals to Santa Clara. The good vibes ended quickly and head coach Matt Doherty was fired after a 13-19 season that included a 4-12 conference record that meant finishing 11th in the C-USA. That offseason, the Mustangs made a bold move by hiring Brown who hadn't coached since 2010 with the Charlotte Bobcats and who is well-known as a coach that never stays in spot long. Brown's first year with the Mustangs brought mixed results. Although there were some bright spots in his first season, like Kansas State transfer Nick Russell, SMU still went a modest 15-17 and 5-11 in the C-USA.

This offseason it appeared like the tide was turning for SMU. Nearly everybody was set to return for the Mustangs including Russell who averaged 14 points per game in his first year with Brown and SMU. Brown parlayed his fame into a fantastic class bringing in the first McDonald's All-American in program history when he brought in guard Keith Frazier, a talent from the Dallas area. Along with all that add in transfer Nic Moore and a move to the fresh and more competitive AAC, Dallas was abuzz with the future of SMU. Even with all that talent coming back and coming in, few could have expected what the Mustangs have done this year. They sit at 20-5 and 3rd in the AAC at the moment thanks to a big year from Nic Moore and sophomore forward Markus Kennedy. They also have three wins over ranked teams this season, UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati. All of that equals the Mustangs being ranked No. 23 in the nation, the first that they have been ranked in three decades. A team that was very young and undisciplined when he took over the program, Brown has made the Ponies smarter and more efficient. His success this season has also led to another huge commit in point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, the No. 2 PG in the 2014 class. Mudiay is the first five-star recruit ever to sign with SMU and should be leaned on to run Brown's offense for the next couple years, assuming he isn't going to leave Dallas after one season.

What does the future hold for a program that has risen from the dead in just two years? This 2013-2014 team is very young at the moment and have the potential to turn into fantastic players. Frazier could continue his development and Mudiay will bring a scoring threat that SMU has never had before. Brown doesn't seem like the kind of guy that would like to stay and turn a program around. The thing is, he has already turned SMU into a team that could turn into a perennial threat for years to come inside the AAC. For years SMU has struggled and looked for someone to take them to the promised land. In less than two years on the job, Brown has already done just that.

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