Advertisement

Archive for Sunday, March 18, 1990

BRUINS RECALL BROWN BAILOUT

March 18, 1990

Advertisement

— Bill Bennett remembered that April afternoon of nearly two years ago the day Larry Brown bailed out all too well.

"You know how we found out about it?" UCLA's associate sports information director told me here Saturday. "We listen to KNX radio during the day it's an all-news station just to keep up on things. That's where we heard it."

Just a few days after Kansas had defeated Oklahoma and won the 1988 NCAA basketball championship, Brown was in Los Angeles where he told UCLA athletic director Peter Dalis he would leave KU and become the Bruins' new head coach.

"We had a press room reserved and we had the press release written," Bennett recalled.

But Brown, as every Kansas basketball fan knows, changed his mind after returning to Lawrence.

Interestingly, if Brown hadn't waffled, Kansas would be playing against its former coach in the NCAA East Regional this afternoon.

OR LET'S amend that to probably would be playing against Brown. Given the mercurial Brown's history, he conceivably could have left Westwood by now.

Trevor Wilson, UCLA's best player, had just finished his sophomore season when word that Brown would replace the fired Walt Hazzard spread like wildfire among the players.

"Pooh Richardson told me Brown had the job," Wilson told me. "We were very excited for two reasons. It was a relief we finally had a coach and, two, we knew he was an excellent coach."

At the same time, Don MacLean, an uncommitted high school superstar in nearby Simi Valley, also heard the news reports.

"I was just waiting it out to find out who the new coach would be," said the 6-10 MacLean, now a sophomore standout for the Bruins. "I was excited. I was anxious to talk to him. I would have wanted to know if he would have stayed for four years."

BROWN, HOWEVER, didn't last four hours. To Wilson, the time frame between Brown coming and Brown staying was, he estimated, about two hours.

"We'd been telling everybody," Wilson related. "We were so excited, and then we heard he wasn't coming. We thought they were kidding. We thought it was a joke."

Finally, Wilson went to the sports information office to learn the truth.

"It was a feeling of. . .well, we were scared," Wilson said. "Here we had one of the best coaches in the country, then to think a couple of hours later he wasn't coming. . .We were scared."

Jim Harrick sure wasn't scared when Brown balked. He was delighted.

"When Larry turned the job down it was 2 p.m. in L.A.," Harrick reflected here Saturday. "At 2:10, Pete Dalis called me. He had two choices hire me or open it up and start interviewing all over again."

Dalis hired Harrick, a former UCLA assistant coach who had spent the last nine years as head man at Pepperdine a few miles away in Malibu.

NOW THE 51-year-old Harrick can look back upon the fateful turn of events with amusement. For instance, he had run into Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps at the coaches convention where the Brown-to-UCLA rumor was rampant.

"It's funny, Digger and I were at the convention," Harrick related, "and he said he grew up with Larry in New York and he'd whisper in my ear, `He's not gonna take the job.'

"I said, `Digger, you're crazy. It's a done deal.' When it was over, when I got the job, I sent him a box of cigars."

Ironically at least according to Harrick he may have actually finished No. 2 to Brown at Kansas in 1983 after Ted Owens was fired by then athletic director Monte Johnson.

"I talked to Monte Johnson before they hired Larry," Harrick said, "and a friend told me that Monte told Dalis that if he hadn't hired Larry he'd have hired me."

In other words, today's game at the Omni could have and this isn't totally nutty pitted Jim Harrick's Jayhawks against Larry Brown's Bruins.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.