SMU's Larry Brown, a Hall of Famer with 1,198 NBA coaching wins, strongly disagreed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's suggestion that elite prospects would be better prepared for the NBA by playing in the D-League instead of spending one season in college.
"I admire him and I think he's one of the bright guys we have in our profession, but that was the worst thing I heard," Brown, who has won titles in college and the NBA, said during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.
Brown, who is in his second season at SMU and 39th in coaching, scoffed at the thought that the NBA's minor league would do a better job developing players than premier college programs. He spent three decades coaching at the pro level, with his last stint in the NBA coming with the Charlotte Bobcats from 2008 to 2011.
"They don't teach guys how to play, in my mind," Brown said of the D-League. "The head coaches in the NBA and a lot of the assistants do, but [college basketball] is the greatest minor league system in the world. If you didn't go to one class and just live in a college environment, then you're way ahead. And I think most coaches are responsible enough to make them go to class, make them go to study hall, give them life lessons.
"How about being around [SMU assistants] Eric Snow and George Lynch? Those two guys played 13, 14 years in the league, have families, are successful. In all honesty, I love Mark, but [college basketball] is pretty good.
"Now, it's our job to make [players] realize getting an education is something that's important, because here's the deal: Life after basketball is a real long time."
Under Brown, SMU has revitalized its program. The No. 18 Mustangs were ranked this season for the first time since 1984-85. SMU's incoming recruiting class includes a potential one-and-done prospect in Dallas Prime Prep point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, the No. 5 player in the ESPN 100.
Cuban emphasized the importance of life skills courses for prospects who might choose to play in the D-League straight out of high school, but Brown believes that sort of education is better delivered on college campuses.
"I always was amazed the NBA had this program before this season where they'd bring everybody in, similar to what you do in college before school starts, orientation," Brown said. "I used to always ask my players what they got out of it, and it was comical. You're not going to get anything out of four days of orientation, but play for Rick Pitino for a year or two or Tom Izzo or John Calipari or Bill Self, I think Cuban would be happy with what they're getting."
Brown did agree with Cuban's suggestion that prospects be required to play three years in college before being eligible for the NBA draft. However, Brown would prefer to make exceptions for players who would like to jump to the pros out of high school.
"I want this to be like baseball," Brown said. "If a kid is good enough, like LeBron or like Durant, to come right out of high school, let him go. Put it in his contract, though, that you're going to make X amount of dollars if you go back to school. Then if you decide to go to school, stay three years. Then all these NBA people wouldn't have to keep these workout coaches, because the kids would be prepared."