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He entered North Carolina the following year, and his worship of McGuire began. "What a loyal s.o.b.," McGuire says. "He'd kill anyone who said anything bad about me. I'd go to argue with a ref, and Larry would be right behind me."
He felt the urge to move on. He considered NYU and St. John's for months, but finally the new coach, Dean Smith, convinced him to stay. Smith was not so easy to adore as McGuire, not as warm or as classy a dresser, but there was something about him that made Brown feel safer. The years would roll by, and Brown could always pick up the phone and dial the same number. Coach Smith was always there.
In the summers, when he came back to Long Beach from college, he began to stay more and more at the home of Joe Glass, a man whose sons had attended summer camp with Brown. "The way he treated me, the way he reacted to his family, was how I imagined my father would have treated me," says Brown. Glass would become Brown's agent, Glass's son Keith would become his assistant at UCLA. His mother asked everyone who knew Larry why he didn't come home to her much anymore.
At college, he would have Donnie Walsh, his roommate and future assistant in Denver, call girls and tell them he was Larry Brown, and ask them for a date. That way, if they turned him down, it was just a little easier for Brown to live with the rejection.
Gail Venters, a campus beauty queen, a classic Southern college sweetheart and the daughter of an influential North Carolina state senator, did not reject him. She seemed so close to the image of perfection he'd carried in his head; they were married in 1963.
He played AAU ball in Akron, Ohio for two years after college and for the victorious 1964 U.S. Olympic team. Smith offered him a job coaching the UNC freshmen, and the kids were stunned at just how much it meant. Only one-third of the try-outs returned to Brown's second day of practice.
The ABA formed, and Brown felt the old itch; he joined the New Orleans Buccaneers. He was the MVP of the first ABA All-Star game, and once, when someone poked the depth perception out of his eye, it meant so much to him to play that he had teammate Rick Barry situate him on the foul line for free throws.
After his season in Oakland, Davidson College had asked Brown to coach its basketball team. "A good small school with great academics, great interest and a great basketball tradition," says Brown. "I thought it would be perfect."