PITTSBURGH — Former LSU coach Dale Brown declined an invitation Sunday to watch the NCAA men’s tournament selection show with coach Johnny Jones and his team.
But Brown wasn’t going to miss the Tigers’ opening game in the tournament, when No. 9 seed LSU faced No. 8 N.C. State on Thursday night in Consol Energy Center.
The school’s all-time wins leader with 448, Brown also has the most NCAA tournament victories. He took LSU to 13 NCAA tournaments and compiled a 15-14 record. He led the Tigers to the Final Four in 1981 and 1986 as well as four Elite Eights.
“I wanted Johnny and his players to embrace (going to the tournament),” Brown said of why he declined Jones’ invite. “It’s not my show. He asked me to talk to the team a couple of weeks ago and I told him, ‘Go to the Final Four, and I’ll talk to them.’
“I’m proud of him, and this is why: He played three centers, he made the changes at guard, he made tough decisions,” Brown said of his former player and assistant coach. “He didn’t just tape this team together; he had to make it work … but he doesn’t get enough credit for it.”
LSU and N.C. State had never met on the basketball court before Thursday night’s game, but the schools do have one important basketball connection.
Former LSU coach Press Maravich was the Wolfpack’s coach for two seasons from 1964-66, compiling a 33-18 record for a .745 winning percentage before leaving for Baton Rouge in the spring of 1966.
Maravich replaced his mentor, Everett Case, when Case retired two games into the 1964-65 season. At LSU, Maravich produced a 76-86 record in six seasons.
Before Thursday’s game, LSU, which was playing in its 21st NCAA tournament, was 11-9 in its opener, with two victories in a row.
The Tigers beat Iona 80-64 in 2006 to begin their run to the Final Four and defeated Butler 75-71 in 2009 — the school’s most recent appearance in the tournament, before Thursday night’s game arrived.
LSU’s previous loss in its NCAA opener was in 2005 against UAB, falling 82-68.
With their 21 appearances, LSU ranks fourth all-time among Southeastern Conference schools.
Kentucky leads the way with 54. Arkansas has 30, counting this year’s bid, and Missouri has been to 26.
Most of Arkansas’ and Missouri’s came when they were in the Southwest Conference and Big Eight/Big 12 conferences.
LSU Sports Radio Network analyst Ricky Blanton, who was at courtside Thursday night, is one of eight former LSU players to participate on four NCAA tournament teams.
Blanton went in 1985, ’86, ’88 and 1989. He sat out the 1987 season as a redshirt after suffering a knee injury in preseason.
The other seven are Oliver Brown, Neboisha Bukumirovich, Geert Hammink, Vernel Singleton, Jose Vargas, Anthony Wilson and Bernard Woodside.
Texas junior guard Javan Felix, a St. Augustine High School grad, scored eight points in the Longhorns’ 56-48 loss to Butler earlier Thursday in Pittsburgh. … Former LSU associate sports information director Fred Demarest, who worked at the school from 1995 to 2002, is N.C. State’s associate AD for communications and marketing. … N.C. State made its 26th NCAA tournament appearance and improved to 36-24. The Wolfpack won the national title in 1974 and ’83.
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