CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In all his wide, wide experience as a player and a coach, Larry Brown has come across Marshall more than a few times.
Actually, he is privy to one of the more obscure, entertaining trivia items in Thundering Herd history.
"[Actor/comedian] Billy Crystal is from my hometown [Long Beach, N.Y.], and he had a baseball scholarship to Marshall," Brown said Tuesday. "He's like family to me."
More evidence of a small world: One of Brown's assistants from his Kansas days was John Calipari, which automatically links him to former MU athletic director Bob Marcum. (Calipari, now coaching at Kentucky, worked for Marcum at Massachusetts, and the two have remained close since.)
Brown is a big fan of Mike D'Antoni, the early 1970s Marshall point guard and current Los Angeles Lakers coach. He counts Charlie Slack, the Herd's rebounding machine of the 1950s, among his friends from his playing days. He enjoyed the movie "We Are Marshall."
When Brown was coaching the New York Knicks, that put him in preseason camp at the College of Charleston - and did so at a time Tom Herrion was coaching the Cougars.
Tonight, Brown and Herrion renew acquaintances at Cam Henderson Center, as Brown's Southern Methodist team arrives for a Conference USA contest at 7 against Herrion's Herd.
With the bulk of his coaching career in the pro ranks, Brown has yet to coach a game in Huntington. Tonight's patrons will get a rare chance to see the only coach to win an NCAA championship (Kansas, 1988) and an NBA title (Detroit Pistons, 2004), and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Shoot, Brown was inducted to that shrine a good decade ago. That just might qualify the 72-year-old as a living, working legend.
Herrion, head coach in 2,625 fewer games than Brown, would agree. Neither Herrion nor most Herd fans never guessed this nomadic coach would make his way to the Henderson Center's visiting bench.
"I don't think that was ever part of the grand scheme of things," Herrion said. "That's what's great about the game - you've got a Hall of Fame coach, Coach Brown, and now he's coming to Huntington at this stage of his life and coaching career."
Brown's coaching career took one of the craziest turns since his last miracle, guiding the Charlotte Bobcats to the NBA playoffs in 2010. He was fired 28 games into the 2010-11 season and remained in retirement last season.
Sort of. If he couldn't coach a game, he had to be around other coaches. Having 13 different head-coaching gigs might do that for you.
But why did Brown return to college coaching, which he left on the highest of notes 24 years earlier?
"I wanted to get back in and coach. I didn't care which level, to be honest with you," he said. "The two years I was out of coaching, after losing my job at Charlotte, I visited with so many guys who have coached with me and played for me that were college coaches.
"I went to Kansas [Bill Self], Kentucky [Calipari], Maryland [Mark Turgeon]. I was at Villanova [Jay Wright] almost every other day. I was involved with Tad Boyle [Colorado], just a lot of programs. And I watched people coach and learned a lot, and just being with them and being a resource in some ways just made me want to get back in some capacity."
So what brought him to SMU, a program languishing since its last NCAA tournament in 1993?
Brown said Turgeon recommended him to then-SMU athletic director Steve Orsini, who had engineered big-name hires of football coach June Jones and the just-ousted Matt Doherty. Unbeknownst to Brown, Jones knew him from the mid-1970s.
As a student living in Portland, Ore., Jones had a job driving vans to transport NBA teams coming to town to play the Trail Blazers. One day, the Denver Nuggets arrived and Coach Brown rode "shotgun" for the trip to the arena.