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'Where You Gonna Be Next Year, Larry?'
Gary Smith
November 12, 1984
The old question still haunts Larry Brown, though he's shown signs that coaching at Kansas could be the last stop in his odyssey
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November 12, 1984

'where You Gonna Be Next Year, Larry?'

The old question still haunts Larry Brown, though he's shown signs that coaching at Kansas could be the last stop in his odyssey

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"Hey, nice sweater, Kiddo!" he calls to the freshman equipment manager. He smooths his hair and checks his assistant coaches' clothes to make sure they're wearing nothing they've worn on nights the Jayhawks have lost. "Hey, R.C.," he says to graduate assistant R.C. Buford, "no paisley ties, right?"

Signing autographs, he limps toward the locker room; he keeps postponing needed surgery on his left hip. "Hey, Eugene, you goin' to class?" he asks, putting his arm around a student with a difficult family life for whom Brown leaves free tickets.

Outside the locker room, there appears one of his UCLA kids, Rod Foster, a pro now with Phoenix, who has made the hour's drive from Kansas City to see coach Brown. Brown's eyes light up and he jokes with Foster, but then, as Foster turns to find his seat, Brown clutches him by the arm and pulls him back, a different look on his face. "Rod," he says. "I'm really happy you came."

He thinks of Dean Smith, and the players who come back to show their love for him every year, and it begins to settle into him how much he aches for that, how he can't keep becoming fathers to them and then leaving them, how all the caring you do in your life only comes back to you if you stay still and let it....

But now it's time, and the little wanderer is following his newest kids out to represent the school that has appointed just six coaches in 87 years, where James Naismith came to coach after he invented basketball in Springfield, Mass. and Phog Allen spent 39 years improving it, the alma mater of Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith, the shrine of tradition and roots. As his lucky cordovan loafers hit the hardwood the trumpets go crazy and the pretty cheerleaders go hurtling through the air, and the handshakes and smiles keep coming out of the blur at him, voices calling, "Good luck, Coach! Go get 'em!", and now the student section spots him and begins to chant, "Lar-eee, LAR-EEE, LAR-EEE...."

He looks up and smiles. It would always be like this, wouldn't it?

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