If Larry Brown has any chance to succeed at SMU after nearly a quarter century away from college basketball, it's vital he hires a staff that can help him recruit the talent-laden Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Brown went a long way toward achieving that goal on Thursday when he plucked assistant coach Ulric Maligi away from Houston coach James Dickey.
Hailed by recruiting experts as one of the most well-connected coaches in the Lone Star State, Maligi is an Arlington native who previously coached at Stephen F. Austin and with the Dallas Mustangs AAU team. In his tenure at Houston, he was the lead recruiter on both Danuel House and Danrad "Chicken" Knowles, the heralded Texas Pro AAU teammates who signed with Houston this past November.
Brown still has yet to hire an associate head coach to serve as a coach-in-waiting, but the presence of Maligi and Jerrance Howard on his staff can only help. Howard coached at Illinois under Bruce Weber and is known for his ability to recruit the Chicago area.
The challenge for Maligi and Howard will be persuading recruits to consider SMU even though Brown's track record suggests he won't be at the school long enough to coach them for more than a year or two. The 71-year-old Brown seldom has stayed in one job longer than two or three years during his Hall of Fame coaching career, though he insisted in a radio interview with KTCK in Dallas this week that he's at SMU "for the long haul."
"I don't want a guy to go out and recruit and people think I'm only going to be here a couple of days," Brown said. "I would imagine a lot of people might use that against you. I know, living in Pennsylvania, they used to kill Coach Paterno about that."
Brown is inheriting a program that had just one winning season in six years under Matt Doherty and hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1993, yet he insists the Mustangs can be competitive in the Big East. That's a lofty goal, but the addition of Maligi to his staff can only help.