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So far, only a few ill winds—a gale here, a squall there—have buffeted the Kansas basketball program. The fullblown tornado that some predicted when Larry Brown became the Jayhawks' coach last spring has yet to hit.
First, Brown fired his assistant, former Kansas All-America Jo Jo White, over "philosophical differences." No sooner had Brown named Ed Manning as White's replacement than Manning's 6'10" high school All-America son Danny announced he'd be joining the Jayhawks next season. Oh, that stirred up a storm all right, but it was felt mostly outside the Sunflower State. Next, in early January, 6'8" sophomore forward Kerry Boagni, who had once said Brown was the coach he most wanted to play for, decided to leave the team. The reason: the ever-popular "philosophical differences." Then last week the Kansas student daily published a professor's charge that Brown had tried to influence the professor to change the grade of the Jayhawks' starting point guard to keep him eligible.
None of these rumblings has developed into the big twister that would have Brown telling his black Labrador, Tatum, "We're not in Kansas anymore." After all, any newcomer in Jayhawk country by way of New York, various towns in North Carolina, Denver, Los Angeles and East Rutherford, N.J. might expect some storminess during a first season in venerable Allen Field House, hard by Naismith Drive. Hall of Famers Phog Allen and James Naismith, Kansas' first two basketball coaches, founded the eminent line to which Brown has fallen heir. In time he'll do the Jayhawks' hoary winning tradition proud—if he sticks around long enough.
If history is any guide, the answer might well be the 43-year-old Brown. In 11 seasons as a head coach, he has earned a reputation as the game's most brilliant—and mobile—malcontent. Since 1969 he has signed in—and signed out—as coach of Davidson, the ABA Carolina Cougars, the ABA and NBA Denver Nuggets, UCLA and, finally, the New Jersey Nets, whom he abandoned just before last season's NBA playoffs. He always won—except at Davidson, where he quit before coaching a game—but he always left, over reasons as various as ill health, too little money, too much pressure, differences with players or management and, his favorite: a feeling of being unappreciated. Still, he'll now fix his big, soft brown eyes on you and persuade you that Laurence is happy in Lawrence.
"Everybody says I'm a big-city guy," says Brown, who is sure of his four-year, $57,000 per annum commitment to Kansas. "I like being able to go to the same place every day for ice cream and have the people there know who I am."
Scuttlebutt has it that there's only one place Brown really wants to coach—the University of North Carolina, his alma mater. But he insists that isn't so. "Number One, Dean [Smith] has two loyal assistants there who deserve the job," he says. "And Number Two, I don't want to see Dean leave." Other rumormongers say Brown will forsake Kansas for the NBA if the money's right.
But Brown insists that it was his love for the student section, the teaching, the sense of family that lured him back to campus. Indeed, Brown would seem ideally suited to the rah-rah atmosphere of the college game. He cares, appreciates—Lord, he emotes. "People wonder how someone can be so sensitive and leave all the time," he says. "But when kids are my responsibility, I'll do anything for them."
Brown says it was that sense of responsibility that prompted him to join freshman guard Cedric Hunter in a Jan. 8 meeting with David Katzman, a history professor whose course, History of the U.S. Since the Civil War, Hunter had failed. Hunter had started hitting the books in the course a month late because, he says, he thought he'd soon be dropping it and enrolling in a psychology class. But the psych course turned out to be full. Forced to stay in the history class to keep up the required load of eight hours, Hunter found himself far behind. He says he sought—and got—Katzman's assurance that he should be able to complete the work despite the late start.
But Hunter flunked his final. When Brown suggested that Katzman give Hunter a D-minus, Katzman refused. The next day Brown wrote a letter to Katzman questioning his "compassion." Katzman sent Brown's letter to several university officials and replied to Brown, calling Brown's missive "insulting, intemperate and ill-conceived." Katzman added that the only conclusion he could draw from Brown's letter was that "compassion has only one interpretation: Award the student a passing grade."