The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Maligi on path to become Hall of Fame head coach

Maligi joined the SMU staff just one month after Brown took over the program and has been instrumental in recruiting. (Courtesy of Ulric Maligi)
Maligi joined the SMU staff just one month after Brown took over the program and has been instrumental in recruiting. (Courtesy of Ulric Maligi)

Omar Majzoub

Contributing Writer

[email protected]

Maligi.jpg
Maligi joined the SMU staff just one month after Brown took over the program and has been instrumental in recruiting. (Courtesy of Ulric Maligi)

The SMU basketball program is fortunate to be led by one of the greatest basketball minds of all-time. Head Coach Larry Brown has one of the most impressive resumes for any coach in sports history, which includes winning over 1,000 professional games and 200 college games.

In his almost 40-year career, Brown is also the only coach to win both a NCAA National Championship and an NBA Championship after winning titles with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and the University of Kansas
in 1988.

Brown, 73, took over the SMU program in April 2012. Since then, he has done a terrific job of turning around the culture that surrounds Mustang basketball. The program landed their first McDonald’s All-American, opened up plans to renovate Moody Coliseum, and have one of the best recruiting classes in the country coming
in 2014.

Although he is the head of the operation, Brown shouldn’t take all the credit for SMU’s turnaround. His entire coaching staff has done an incredible job recruiting and developing players the last couple years. Each person on staff has an important role for the Mustangs to reach their goal of a national championship and there isn’t anybody more important, or underappreciated, on the team than Assistant Coach Ulric Maligi.

Maligi joined the SMU staff just one month after Brown took over the program. Brown’s assistant at the time, Jerrance Howard, had a previous relationship with Maligi and recommended him for a spot on the bench. Maligi was at the University of Houston and tried to turn down the SMU job at first.

“I got some other opportunities that I got a chance to turn down, so I had been through the process earlier in the spring,” Maligi said. “I kind of came to the conclusion with the athletic director, Head Coach James Dickey, and my wife, that Houston was where I wanted to be.”

Maligi was intrigued by the SMU job and knew Brown was an incredible coach, but he was convinced he needed to stay with his wife who is a family doctor. Maligi described his wife, who he met freshman year at Howard University, as the best doctor in the world and he wanted to be with her in Houston. Then, Maligi received a call from Brown that changed his life forever.

“I’ll never forget the phone call I had with Coach Brown,” Maligi said. “He told me I was in a great coaching tree with Eddie Sutton and James Dickey, but if I really wanted to be a head coach then I needed to go to SMU because Coach Brown doesn’t have a coaching tree; he has a forest.”

Since accepting the position next to fellow coaches Tim Jankovich and K.T. Turner, Maligi has surrounded himself with greatness every single day. Although it is incredibly demanding to learn under Brown, Maligi said it’s been a true blessing for him.

“I love it because I’m one of those people who believes that compliments kill,” Maligi said. “The fact that he is going to hold me accountable, be demanding and challenge me every single day is a great thing because I want to be a Hall of Fame head coach someday. I’m also used to it because of my parents. I didn’t grow up easy, so everything I have gotten I have worked for.”

Maligi’s life has been far from easy. His biggest hero is his dad, a former American Airlines baggage claim worker, who has had to deal with multiple illnesses and misfortunes in his life including having both legs amputated, a stage-four kidney disease and a bad case of diabetes. Maligi’s mother has also been a huge influence on him and his two younger sisters, Lucretia and Genita. Maligi’s mother, a librarian, named her children after characters from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”
and “Hamlet.”

Maligi’s parents pushed him to work at an early age, so he started coaching the Dallas Mustangs AAU team when he was just 18 years old and still in high school. Players on his team thought he was a teammate on the first day of practice because he looked so young. However, Maligi eventually earned their respect with his hard work and understanding of
the game.

After playing his senior season, Maligi decided to fully pursue a coaching career by becoming a video manager for Howard. It was an entry-level job that guys like Roy Williams, Buzz Williams, and Rick Majerus had also started their coaching
careers with.

At Howard, Maligi got a chance to play every role because they were a historically black college that was very undermanned. It was those types of experiences that prepared him for future coaching stops at the University of Texas at Arlington and Stephen F. Austin State University.

At one point, Maligi thought he was even going to be a graduate assistant for Bob Knight at Texas Tech University, but decided to follow his close friend and mentor Scott Cross to Arlington, Texas.

Maligi had originally promised Cross he would be at UTA for 10 years, but Stephen F. Austin offered to double his salary and allow him to own a car. Although it was difficult for him to leave, the religious Maligi prayed about it, talked about it with his girlfriend, and decided it was the best move for
his career.

“God is the reason why I have been blessed with all these great opportunities that have come about,” Maligi said. “He has blessed me with a beautiful wife, a beautiful family and this great opportunity. At SFA, we went to the NCAA tournament and got to cut down those nets. It was great being a part of March Madness, so I would say that’s probably my best moment as a coach.”

After so many different stops, Maligi built strong relationships with players and coaches across the country. He learned that recruiting is all about being genuine and getting players to feel comfortable with him. At Houston, Maligi decided to focus on in-state recruiting more because of how many talented players there are in Texas.

“I don’t tap into the guys I know all around the country as much because, why go to California, New York or North Carolina when we can get the same kid right here in Texas,” Maligi explained. “It helped me out a lot when I coached AAU and got a chance to be on the other side. I had so many coaches recruit my kids that I found out what kind of recruiter I wanted to be. I think people can really see through fake, so I just try to be real.”

Since arriving at SMU, Maligi has played a big role in the recruitment of players like McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier, top-rated JUCO big man Yanick Moreira, and class of 2014 five-star point guard Emmanuel Mudiay.

Maligi uses social media, like Twitter and Instagram, to inform fellow coaches, recruits and families about the program and the school. While he enjoys letting people get to know him better, Maligi says losing a player that can help the program is the most difficult part of his job.

Players on the SMU team unanimously decided Maligi had a very bright future as a head coach. Frazier credits Maligi for helping him transform from a boy to a man, while Moreira said the coach was one the biggest reasons he decided to come to SMU.

Maligi has become more than just a mentor. He holds every kid on the team accountable and wants to help them achieve all their goals
and dreams.

“I wanted a guy that was going to work hard and represent our program,” Brown said. “He is exactly what I was looking for in regards to character and loyalty. He is a great human being, a great teacher and an unbelievably hard worker. He cares about the game, the kids and our school. He is going to be a great head coach, he probably could have been this year.”

The signing of Mudiay, the nation’s top rated point guard, was a big step for the SMU program. With offers from every major program around the country, Mudiay’s decision to stay at home validates SMU as a place where you can get exposure, play at the highest-level and accomplish something special. It should help the Mustangs land other talented kids from the community
as well.

“Obviously, he could have gone anywhere, so I think it’s huge for all of us,” Maligi said. “In his heart, he really believes that Coach Brown can best prepare him for the NBA better than any other coach that was recruiting him. I don’t necessarily consider him the start because I don’t think we get him if we don’t get Keith [Frazier], Yanick, Sterling [Brown], or any of these other guys who decided to come. I think it’s just been a gradual puzzle that we’re putting together.”

The championship puzzle is close to being complete, but Maligi won’t be satisfied until the goal is reached. SMU now has everything necessary to become a top program with great facilities, academics and location. Maligi said building that type of championship culture and mentality is something they fight for every single day.

“Coach Brown came here because he wanted to win a national championship and if I didn’t believe in that same vision then I wouldn’t have taken the job,” Maligi said. “We try to go out and target guys in recruiting who want to do the same. I think Emmanuel [Mudiay] is definitely one of those guys. I don’t think he would have came here if he didn’t feel like we have a chance to win a
national championship.”

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