AAC media day: Brown faces the music
On a morning in which his team otherwise might have been trumpeted as a legitimate Final Four contender, 75-year-old Larry Brown instead appeared somber and remorseful.
But at least he appeared.
Less than a week after Louisville announced embattled coach Rick Pitino wouldn't attend the ACC's media day on the advice of counsel, Brown faced reporters' questions on the Amway Center floor Tuesday morning.
It will be his lone Orlando appearance this season. The Mustangs were leveled with a one-year postseason ban, including the American Athletic Conference tournament at the Amway Center, and Brown was handed a nine-game suspension on the heels of a scathing NCAA report.
"I'm embarrassed at what happened at our university," Brown said while seated on a makeshift stage with the AAC's 10 other coaches during the league's media day. "I apologize to everybody here."
The preseason pick by league coaches to win the conference crown, the Mustangs return three starters from last season's 27-7 team including PG Nic Moore, selected the preseason player of the year.
But the Mustangs' season will end with a March 6 regular season contest at Cincinnati after the NCAA cited Brown's program for academic fraud and unethical conduct.
"The biggest thing is what's happened to the kids. That's been the most difficult thing to handle," Brown said.
"If you go and kind of look at what this program has done and how we've grown, it's difficult to see that they're focusing on one half-credit course with a student that wasn't even enrolled in school. And now they've got this new rule about coach's responsibility and you've got to own up to it, you've got to accept it.
"And I told the kids, life isn't always how you hope it to be, and sometimes there's some bumps in the road. It's how you handle adversity...that really is what people are gonna judge you. So hopefully we'll handle it well."
Brown acknowledged Tuesday he has found a soulmate of sorts in Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, who played for Brown in the NBA with the 76ers. Ollie inherited a Huskies program with a one-year postseason ban and led it to a 20-10 season.
The following year, in 2014, UConn won the national title. "I've talked to my team about that (UConn parallel)," Brown said.
"Fortunately we have three great seniors that are really good leaders and good people. They're playing for their teammates, for what's gonna happen to them later on. There's no need to look back, we've just got to look forward. Adversity's gonna happen to everybody at some point in their lives, it's how you handle it."
NON-CONTACT SPORT? The series of rules changes for the 2015-16 season emerged as a primary topic during a coaches roundtable Tuesday morning, with the new guidelines regarding physicality a hot topic.
Among things officials are expected to whistle: subtle forearms or shoves to cutters, hand checks and bumps of ball handlers and overzealous box-outs. Similar enforcements two years ago -- intended to promote scoring -- resulted in a litany of fouls early in the season.
"If they call it the way they're saying they're gonna call it, like the pros where they call defense-initiated contact, I think that's good for the game," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said.
"If players can just dribble into the defense and create a foul with offense-initiated contact, that's bad for the game. You're gonna see 60 fouls a game, because the defensive guy can't get out of the way. ... I don't want to coach a game where I have to run clear-outs and tell guys, 'Just dribble it at him and he'll call a foul.' ... That will be bad for our game."
ODDS AND ENDS: Houston, which lost at USF last February with a decimated squad, brought in four transfers and took a competitive 10-day tour of China over the summer. "Coach (Kelvin Sampson) always says you could lose your spot any day," senior G LeRon Barnes said, "so you have to come to practice every day ready to compete." ... East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo enters the season two victories shy of 300 for his career. ... The conference tournament at Amway Center is slated for March 10-13, with the final set to tip off at 3:15 p.m. on March 13. ESPN will televise.