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Couch: Brown deserved a better ending to his Longhorns tenure

Image: Mack Brown (Soobum Im/USA Today Sports)
Texas coach Mack Brown sings the school song after the Alamo Bowl.
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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SAN ANTONIO

It shouldn’t have ended this way for Mack Brown. It’s wrong. He did too much, earned too much, built too much. He put the pieces back together at Texas with his civility, and then built the Longhorns into a national power again.

It was so amazing that Texas became the centerpiece for the realignment of the nation’s conferences. Texas got its own TV network, the Longhorn Network. Texas got a national championship.

Mack Brown did that. All of it. But so often, there just isn’t a good and gentle way to say goodbye. So the rich, power boys played dirty tricks on him, humiliated him, put their foot in his backside, shoved him out the door and said, “Thanks for coming.”

And then? Brown ended his career Monday night, losing to Oregon 30-7 in the Alamo Bowl.

Blown out and forced out. Brown deserved better. He walked off to maybe the biggest applause of the night, with Texas fans, many in shirts saying “Thanks Mack.” Brown made the Hook ’em Horns sign with one hand and held his wife Sally’s hand with the other.

“I told them tonight the only regret I had is we didn’t win enough games this year,” Brown said. “We didn’t win as many games as we had good players. I feel like a lot of great players are coming back.

“New energy, new staff, new ideas will really, really help these kids move forward.”

Texas is already moving on. Athletic director Steve Patterson said Monday night that he plans to have a new coach in place by Jan. 15, at the start of recruiting. A source told me Texas is quietly waiting for the BCS games to pass, presumably to talk with Baylor coach Art Briles and maybe Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. Briles owns Texas high school recruiting and runs the modern game at Baylor, where he has worked miracles.

He’s probably the ideal, though I think Texas could do worse than UCLA’s Jim Mora, too.

One note of caution, though, for anyone considering the job: Look how Texas treated the guy who rebuilt the program and pulled all the divided factions back into one as a masterful salesman.

Is that really what you want, Art Briles? Texas power boys leaked to the media that Texas had been talking with Nick Saban’s agent at the end of last season. That was meant to embarrass Brown, let him know that he was being pushed out.

It’s not that things hadn’t slipped under Brown. He blew it in 2010, after Texas lost a national title game. Recruiting, tactics, decisions. Brown told me before the season that he pushed every wrong button that year.

Something about Brown got to me, honestly. I talked to him at the Big 12 media days, and then flew out to Austin and spent close to an hour with him in his office, which was bigger than some apartments I’ve lived in. In fact, I’ve had apartments smaller than the aquarium his fish were living in.

Brown talked to me about reinventing himself. He had been so wiped out by losing that title game after the 2009 season, when quarterback Colt McCoy got hurt early, that he fell into depression.

That was my word. He said he never had it diagnosed, but that’s what he described. He also had to deal with several deaths in his family. He said that he started the next season with a blowout win and then chewed out his team in the locker room.

He still doesn’t know why he did that.

He started making mistakes in recruiting, not even making an offer to Andrew Luck when he was on campus, interested only in Stanford, Notre Dame and Texas. Brown didn’t sign a quarterback that year.

He used players wrong, too, and tried to put in a power running game even though he didn’t have the right personnel for it. His recruiting went bad for a couple of years, actually. That’s why this team was a little short of talent – half of one game from winning the Big 12 and going to a major BCS bowl — and didn’t have a great quarterback.

Going into this year, Brown hired a player personnel guy, a move that Saban had done in 2009. Brown decided to start setting up camps to recruit sophomores, something he had resisted before, though everyone else was doing it. He put in an up-tempo offense, got on Twitter.

And he still had a stack of note cards on his desk. He said he still liked to handwrite notes back to people who wrote him.

We’ve seen coaches hang around too long. Players do it all the time, and their skills erode and it’s painful. But is that really what was happening to Brown? Had the game passed him by, or had he just had a temporary blip, and then looked within and tried to fix himself?

Maybe you just can’t reinvent yourself at 62. But I’d like to think you can. And more important, I’d like to think a guy who had done all that Brown did, would be given a chance.

He certainly didn’t deserve to be humiliated the way Texas’ people did it. (Are you listening, Art Briles?) They couldn’t even quietly tell him to go; they had to go public with it.

Brown fought it in the end, but there was irony in where he was doing it:

At the Alamo. It was hopeless.

Sources told me that Brown was led to believe he would keep his job if he won the Big 12. He had spent the year fighting off the dirty tricks of Texas’ power boys. And after starting 1-2, Brown and his players came together around him. Texas crushed Oklahoma.

It got all the way to the final game of the year, needing to beat Baylor. The game was tied at halftime. But Baylor pulled away in the end.

And the power boys made another play, leaking that Brown was done. He was out. He was gone.

Only Brown disagreed. He fought it. He went out recruiting. He refused to go, figuring he had come close enough to that title to stay. But in the end, he couldn’t overcome. And really, even if he had, next season would have been even more miserable.

He announced he was resigning for the good of the program. Two sources confirmed to me that he had been forced out.

His players wanted to win one more for Brown on Monday, to give him a proper goodbye from them. Quarterback Case McCoy said that at least the players knew they had fought as hard as they could for Brown.

“Coach Brown recruited my brother and me,” Case McCoy told me. “He took care of my parents. We love the guy. He gave us both a chance to realize our dreams. You have to respect a guy for that.”

Yes, Brown is the type of guy who could get people to say something like that about him. Now, there’s one less guy like him out there.

Tagged: Florida, Baylor, Texas, Case McCoy, Mack Brown

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