I don't normally write too sports specific on this blog. I leave that to the boys, who usually know a bit more than me instinctually. But on this occasion, I can't help it. I am bursting with Pony Pride! Cheesy? Yes. But, true.
I've had football season tickets for six consecutive years, along with a few before I moved away to NYC (kind of hard to commute from Manhattan). And now I'm in my second year of basketball season tickets. I cannot explain what it feels like to watch a sports program at SMU light it on FIRE the way Larry Brown has with our basketball program. It is awe-inspiring.
Check out this video and tell me it doesn't inspire you. They play it to open every home game. I've watched 100x now. Chills. Every. Time.
I shot the finally seconds of the game last Saturday the 8th against #7 Cincinnati. I've never seen anything like it since beginning my SMU career in the Fall of 1998. I'm so proud that the students are as supportive and excited as they are of our extraordinary team. You can watch my little iPhone video on our YouTube page. Next time I'll shoot wide. I was just too excited to think!
It's been almost 20 years since I started college at SMU. That seems like a really, really long time. It's been even longer since SMU has been to the NCAA tournament. I wasn't even paying attention to SMU when they won the Southwest Conference Regular season title in 1993. I remember the Sports Illustrated when former Mustang Jon Koncak was (briefly) the highest paid player in the NBA. I was in school when SMU played the #1 Arkansas Razorbacks in 1994. I witnessed the 'revival" under coach Mike Dement when we made an NIT appearance in 2000. That team had two future NBA players on it, which was a big deal to us. Quinton Ross played several years in the NBA and still plays professionally overseas. Jeryl Sasser was a first round draft pick. We made the final four in the CollegeInsider.com Post Season Tournament in 2011 (yes, that's a real thing). These aren't even enough to be footnotes in your history if you are a North Carolina or Duke alum. For Mustang fans these are fond memories. Larry Brown has changed all of that.
When we were in school, I went to probably 90-95% of the home games. There were plenty of good seats available. The only time it seemed to be close to a sell out were those times when a ranked opponent (i.e. Fresno St or New Mexico) showed up or if it was a nationally televised game (I seem to remember a couple of 11pm games versus TCU). Those games notwithstanding, attendance was so sparse that every chant or cheer could be heard throughout the arena. Larry Brown has changed all of that.
The big time SMU recruits I remember were players who had accolades (Mr. Basketball Colorado, Texas 5A player of the year, etc) but weren't heavily recruited by the NCAA basketball blue bloods. Basketball is one of the few sports that one impact recruit can impact your program. Jeryl Sasser, for example, led us to the NIT without much help (Ross was a freshman that year). We weren't getting those guys. Larry Brown has changed all of that.
I can't remember SMU basketball being this exciting. Since I've relocated to Austin, I haven't been able to get to any games. But Coach Brown has made us relevant enough that we're on tv at least once a week. Every Monday I check the new polls to see how many votes we get. I don't think I've ever been able to do that before. ESPN's Bracketology is another can't miss for me. I don't know if we've ever even appeared on that page prior to this year. And I'm excited for our future...Coach Brown has signed the highest ranked recruit ever for SMU and he enrolls in August. Two of this years top freshman had narrowed their collegiate choices to Kentucky (8 national championships), Kansas (invented basketball) and SMU. So, thank you, Coach Brown. Thank you for bringing pride to SMU. Thank you for bringing wins and expectations to SMU. And thank you for doing it the right way and with class.