Larry Brown shocked Kansas and UCLA with the ultimate change of heart Friday, rejecting an offer to return as the Bruins' basketball coach and staying with the national champion Jayhawks.
"Although I visited UCLA last night, I came back and after thinking about it, I've decided to stay at the University of Kansas," said Brown, reading a one-paragraph statement then leaving without taking questions.It was a stunning turnaround even for Brown, basketball's most famous vagabond who left previous jobs with the Carolina Cougars and the Denver Nuggets of the old American Basketball Association, the NBA Nuggets and New Jersey Nets and, after just two seasons, UCLA.
This time, according to the scenario sketched by UCLA and Kansas officials, Brown went to Kansas to UCLA back to Kansas in less than 24 hours.
UCLA officials were so sure it was a done deal that they had scheduled a news conference Saturday to announce that Brown would replace the fired Walt Hazzard. Instead, he became the second coach in a week to turn down the job, following North Carolina State's Jim Valvano.
"I told them (UCLA) I was going to come; we were just going to work out the details and give them a chance to tell the (Kansas) AD and team I was going to be the coach at UCLA," Brown told CBS reporter Jim Lampley Friday night.
"When I got back to Lawrence, I just started to think about the things UCLA was going to do for me, and I haven't done anything for UCLA. They were more than fair but I just didn't feel comfortable with it. The bottom line I felt, was that it would be best for everyone if I stayed at Lawrence and coached at the University of Kansas," Brown said.
"When Coach Brown left Los Angeles this morning, we had every reason to believe that he had accepted UCLA's offer," UCLA athletic director Peter Dalis said.
"We have since learned from the media that Coach Brown has decided to remain at Kansas, but we have not heard this directly from Coach Brown."
His change of mind was so sudden that most Kansas officials didn't know about it, either. "When we left our staff meeting at noon, we were all quite sure we'd lost our coach," said Floyd Temple, Kansas' assistant athletic director who had told The Associated Press shortly before Brown's announcement that "he's gone. It's definite."
"I don't want to mention any names, but we were told it was a lost cause," Temple said.
In fact, Temple said that even as Brown sat at a table in Allen Fieldhouse to reveal his decision to about 200 students and fans and reporters, "We all thought we were going to lose our basketball coach."
When Brown said he was staying, Temple and assistant athletic directors Doug Vance and Gary Hunter "looked at each other in amazement," Temple said. "It was an absolute shock. It was tremendous shock to all of us."
More than 200 students and boosters burst into cheers and chanted, "Larry, Larry," so loud that Brown had to pause and gesture for quiet so he could read his statement. The Kansas campus is still euphoric following the NCAA championship Brown's unranked team won Monday night with 83-79 upset of Oklahoma.
"I apologize at this time for these things to be coming out," Brown said. "I think it's a time everybody ought to be celebrating the accomplishments of our team. Right now I'm just going to meet with our team and leave it at that."
With that, he left.