Lawrence Harvey “Larry” Brown (born September 14, 1940) is an American basketball coach, who was most recently head men’s basketball coach at Southern Methodist University. He is the only coach in basketball history to win both an NCAA national championship (Kansas, 1988) and an NBA title (Pistons, 2004). He has a 1,275-965 lifetime professional coaching record in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) and is the only coach in NBA history to lead eight different teams to the playoffs. He also won an ABA championship as a player with the Oakland Oaks in the 1968–69 season, and an Olympic Gold Medal in 1964. He is also the only person ever to coach two NBA franchises in the same season (Spurs and Clippers during the 1991–92 NBA season). Before coaching, Brown played collegiality at the University of North Carolina and professionally in the ABA. He has been a basketball coach since 1972.
Brown was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach on September 27, 2002. Although widely considered one of the greatest coaches in basketball history, he has developed a reputation for constantly looking for better coaching opportunities and frequently switching teams or programs before the expiration of his contract.
Brown’s first head coaching job was at Davidson College in North Carolina in 1969. Unfortunately for Wildcat fans, it would only last during the summer offseason and he never coached a game. Brown moved on to the ABA and coached with the Carolina Cougars and then the Denver Nuggets, who later joined the NBA in 1976, for five and a half seasons from 1974 to 1979. He then moved on to coach for UCLA (1979–1981), leading his freshman-dominated 1979–80 team to the NCAA title game before falling to Louisville, 59–54. However, that appearance was later vacated by the NCAA after two UCLA players were found to be ineligible—one of the few times a Final Four squad has had its record vacated. Brown was the head coach for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets for two years following that, from 1981 to 1983. Brown began his tenure at the University of Kansas (1983–1988). There he was named “Coach of the Year” for the NCAA in 1988 and “Coach of the Year” for the Big Eight Conference in 1986. Kansas finished first in the Big Eight in 1986, and second in 1984, 1985, and 1987. In 1988, Kansas got off to a mediocre 12–8 start, including 1–4 in the Big 8, and the end of the Jayhawks’ 55-game homecourt winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse. Ultimately, behind the high-scoring of Danny Manning, KU finished 27–11 and won the national championship in 1988, defeating favored conference rival Oklahoma 83–79 in the final.
Brown won his first NBA Championship during his first year with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers four games to one in the 2004 NBA Finals. By doing so, Brown became the first, and so far only, man to coach teams to both NCAA and NBA titles. Brown is also the only NBA coach to take two different teams (76ers and Pistons) to the NBA Finals against the same opponent (Los Angeles Lakers in 2001 and 2004), lose the first time, and win the second.
Brown was also chosen as the head coach for the USA men’s basketball team at the 2004 Summer Olympics which earned a bronze medal, a major disappointment. Brown was heavily criticized for publicly berating the players, for repeatedly criticizing the roster chosen by the player selection committee, and for insisting on a style of play which minimized the United States’ advantage in athleticism.
On April 29, 2008, Brown signed to become the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats – his ninth NBA coaching job. He managed to keep the relatively young team in playoff contention. The following season, Brown guided the Bobcats to the franchise’s first-ever playoff appearance. Charlotte was the 8th different team he led to the postseason, an NBA record.
On December 22, 2010, Brown parted ways with the Bobcats after the team went 9–19. His departure was officially characterized as a resignation, but other sources reported that Brown was fired. Assistant coach Jeff Capel II told The Charlotte Observer that the entire coaching staff had been fired.
On April 17, 2012, ESPN reported that Brown was to be named the new head coach of the SMU Mustangs, replacing Matt Doherty, who had been fired from SMU earlier in March. Tim Jankovich, the head coach of Illinois State, was hired as the coach-in-waiting.
After a rebuilding season in 2012–2013 (15-17), Brown brought SMU into the national conversation the following year and led the team to a 27-10 record in the 2013–2014 season. SMU swept the eventual National Champion University of Connecticut Huskies in conference play and was the most notable team not to be let into the NCAA Tournament field of sixty-eight. On July 8, 2016 Brown announced he would be resigning as head basketball coach.
Career highlights and awards
ABA champion (1969)
3× ABA All-Star (1968–1970)
ABA All-Star MVP (1968)
All-ABA Second Team (1968)
NBA champion (2004)
NBA Coach of the Year (2001)
2× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1977, 2001)
NCAA champion (1988)
Naismith College Coach of the Year (1988)
3× ABA Coach of the Year (1973, 1975, 1976)
Career ABA statistics
Points 4,229 (11.2 ppg)
Rebounds 1,005 (2.7 rpg)
Assists 2,509 (6.7 apg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as coach
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006
Gold medal – first place 1964 Tokyo Team competition
men’s national basketball team
Head Coach for United States
Bronze medal – third place 2004 Athens Team
men’s national basketball team
Assistant Coach for United States
Gold medal – first place 2000 Sydney Team