Former Illini assistant Howard headed to SMU. ISU coach Tim Jankovich working a deal to become coach in waiting.

 

 Never has SMU basketball made such a big splash in central Illinois.   After a report said Larry Brown agreed to become the SMU coach, sources confirmed former Illini assistant coach Jerrance Howard accepted a job on the Mustangs' staff, and Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich was close to finalizing a deal to become SMU's coach in waiting.   Howard served as interim coach at Illinois when the school fired Bruce Weber on March 9, but he wasn't retained after Illinois hired John Groce to replace Weber. Howard had an offer to work under Weber at Kansas State, and his name was mentioned in other openings.   He chose to work under Brown, a 71-year-old Hall of Famer who is the only coach in the game's history to win NCAA and NBA titles. A source said Howard would get a significant pay increase from the $180,000 per season he made at Illinois. According to reports, former Kentucky assistant Rod Strickland would also join the SMU staff.   Jankovich, Howard and Strickland all have ties to Kansas coach Bill Self or Kentucky's John Calipari. The coaches who met in the NCAA title game this season remain tight with Brown after working under him at Kansas.   A source close to the SMU program expected Jankovich to be offered between $800,000 and $1 million per year. Jankovich made a little more than $400,000 at Illinois State, where he returned the bulk of the roster from a 21-14 team that came within an overtime loss in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game of reaching the NCAA bracket.   The Redbirds will likely be the league's top challenger to favored Creighton in the Valley race this winter. Illinois State athletic director Gary Friedman attended the Illinois-Illinois State baseball game here Tuesday night.   Calipari and William "Worldwide Wes'' Wesley, the well-known college basketball power broker, were helping Brown assemble his crew, a report said. Brown visited SMU Sunday and Monday.    According to the Dallas Morning News, Brown said Tuesday afternoon he only wanted to formally accept if "all things are in place. I'm sure they (SMU) feel the same way.   "Nothing's been finalized. I don't know who put that out. Ever since my trip to Dallas, I've had a thousand people calling me for a job, I know that.''   John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.