Brad Brownell was an 11-year-old self-described 'gym rat' when Larry Brown coached his UCLA Bruins to an 85-74 victory over Clemson in the 1980 NCAA West Regional finals at Tucson, Ariz., denying the Tigers their only shot at advancing to the Final Four.
A lot of years have passed for the well-traveled Brown. But the older he gets in the business, the more he's impressed with the new generation of young coaches, of whom he counts Brownell one.
"Oh, he's great," said Brown of Brownell after the Hall of Fame coach's SMU team defeated the Tigers Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. "I got a little North Carolina background and I know what kind of job he did at (UNC) Wilmington.
"I know what (former Seahawks coach) Jerry Wainwright thought about him, and I have great respect for Jerry.
"I'm amazed at the quality of coaching on the college level from guys like him. I mean, young coaches on the college level are pretty darned good."
Brown said he was impressed by the Tigers, who, like his Mustangs, made a strong case for being included in the NCAA tournament this year.
"That's a young team," said Brown of the Tigers. "They are real young. They had a couple tough losses late in the year or else they might have been in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's not an easy league but I think he's got it going in the right direction."
Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc