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Chuck Landon: MU meets yet another icon of coaching

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 12:09 AM

Sometimes he is worth the price of admission.

Not often, perhaps.

But, on occasion, a coach who is so high-profile or, perhaps, one who even has attained the status of icon, visits Huntington, W.Va., to compete against Marshall University.

And, yes, it's worth buying a ticket just to see a guy everybody has watched on television to prowl the sidelines live and in person.

Again, it doesn't happen frequently, but it actually has occurred more times at a mid-level school like Marshall than most people ever would guess.

One of those times is Wednesday night.

Larry Brown, the only coach in history to win both an NCAA championship and an NBA title, will pay his first visit to the Henderson Center when he leads SMU against Marshall at 7 p.m.

There's no doubt that Brown, who also is the only person to play and also coach in the Olympics, has earned the title of "icon." His resume is beyond reproach, as is the respect Brown receives from his peers.

"I've been in his presence a handful of times. ... different opportunities, like clinics or coaching conventions," said Marshall coach Tom Herrion. "And for all his successes and longevity as a coach, he has always been in it for the right reasons.

"Now, I'm sure he has made a boatload of money throughout his career, but he always had time to continue to teach. ... even with young coaches or just the game. He cares deeply about the game.

"I think that obviously is one of the reasons he's coaching now."

Somehow, I doubt the 72-year-old Brown is at SMU for the money.

"As much as he's made," said Herrion, "I don't think at this point of his career he's coaching for money. He doesn't have to. I think he has proven over time -- and you can see it in his team -- they try to play the right way."

Perhaps, that's because Brown attempts to coach the right way. It shows in his demeanor.

"He's very stoic on the sidelines. ... very stoic," said Herrion. "He's a Hall of Fame coach. He's an icon in our profession. Obviously, it's a respectful honor that he's playing in our building."

Indeed, it is.

Yet, it's an honor that has occurred several times with several marquee coaches in both the Henderson Center and the gone, but not forgotten, Memorial Field House.

Since I've been writing about Marshall, the list includes such all-time greats as DePaul's Ray Meyer, who coached here during the 1976-77 season; Princeton's Pete Carill (1972-73); Louisville's Denny Crum (1977-78); and Will Robinson, a West Virginia State graduate who was the first black head coach in NCAA Division I history, who brought Illinois State here in 1975.

Then, there has been Memphis' John Calipari, Marquette's Rick Majerus (1983-84), Appalachian State's Bobby Cremins, South Carolina's Bill Foster (1980-81), Wake Forest's Dave Odom, UMass' Steve Lappas, Oklahoma's John MacLeod (1969-70) and Idaho State's Jim Killingsworth (1976-77).

Why, even some notable West Virginia natives have graced Marshall's arenas. They include Old Dominion's Sonny Allen (1973-74), Moundsville; WVU's Gale Catlett, Hedgesville; Georgia's Jim Harrick, Charleston; and East Tennessee State's Les Robinson, St. Albans.

It's quite an impressive list.

Welcome to the club, Coach Brown.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.



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