Archive for the ‘graduation (HS and college)’ Category

The Wisdom of Charles Barkley

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Throughout Charles Barkley’s career at Auburn, I was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee.  He was amazing to watch.  You couldn’t believe a guy with that body could get up in the air so fast and so high.  It was almost like he was made out of helium.

Our staff was close with the Auburn coaches and they regaled us with Barkley stories that, if we didn’t know them so well, we’d swear the tales had to be apocryphal.  Yet, here’s a guy who never got his degree - or is even close to one - who has made a great living for himself - after he retired from the game.

While Charles didn’t hit the books very hard (or at all), in addition to being extremely entertaining, he is quite insightful in the ways of the NBA world.  The perfect example of taking what he learned in his first job and adding common sense to come up with opinions that have a good deal of substance.

Regarding the area of players coming out of college early - in particular the one-and-dones - Barkley’s quote in the 4/11/11 issue of Sports Illustrated sums up the situation as well as anyone could:

“It’s ruining the NBA.  The draft is designed for bad teams to get better, not to draft someone who’s going to be better in five years.  It ruins the integrity of the game.”

Central High’s Decision Defies Logic

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

It was reported in the Fresno Bee in December, 2010 that several of the members of the boys’ basketball team at Central High School were caught smoking marijuana in a hotel room.  The team was playing in an out-of-town tournament and one of the CHS coaches, apparently during a bed check, made the discovery.

Child psychologists claim that the reason teenagers take such risks is because . . . they’re teenagers, and teenagers experiment.  While this might be an explanation for the boys’ actions, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that smoking marijuana (for now, at least) is against the law as well as being detrimental to a person’s body.  Although what smoking marijuana might lead to is debatable, no one ever made a case for it being helpful

Central took immediate disciplinary action.  The team forfeited the remainder of their tournament games and promptly returned to Fresno.  The school district then made public their punishment - dismiss the boys from the squad - and expel them from school!  Many of these youngsters lived for basketball.  Wouldn’t taking away their love send a clear enough message?  Throwing them out of school seemed to be compounding the problem.

Did these administrators (many of whom are probably from the Baby Boomer generation - one notorious for anti-establishment behavior during their teenage years, which might have included some episodes of . . . MaryJane?) stop and think that such a severe punishment could lead to even worse consequences?  What do these “educational leaders” believe - that these kids will feel they learned a lesson and will now spend their newfound free time in the local library?

I have spoken to many people about this, including some who were directly involved in the incident, and explained what I thought the decision ought to have been.  While not a scientific survey, no one has disagreed.  It would be fair to kick the boys off the team but, rather than take away their high school education too, they should have been made to attend additional schooling - in the way of Saturday School, after school (and possibly lunch) detention and a mandatory course detailing the dangers of drugs.

Educate them that their poor judgment created consequences, even if their mistake was mere experimentation (and in some of the cases, it may have been exactly that).  The lessons were 1) they could no longer compete in the game they loved and 2) that they obviously needed additional instruction in determining right from wrong - and the school was going to help them do that.  This would have allowed the seniors to graduate with their fellow classmates and given a strong warning to the underclassmen regarding any future transgressions.

Too often, actions like these are taken for politically correct reasons.  The school district has set a precedent in its ruling and if it thinks that these kids are the only ones at Central High who dabble in drugs, they’re could be in for a rude awakening.  

In all, cooler heads (at the administrative level) should have prevailed.  It’s my belief the administration let these youngsters - and their families - down.  It’s a case of: 

“Some people take themselves too seriously and their jobs too lightly.” 

Cam Newton Going Pro No Shock

Friday, January 14th, 2011

One of the least surprising stories hit the wires yesterday when Auburn QB Cam Newton declared for the NFL draft.  And why not?  He led his team to the National Championship (the Tigers aren’t exactly an annual contender) and won the Heisman Trophy (among other individual awards).  While some don’t consider him “ready” to be an NFL quarterback right now, would staying in college better help prepare him - or spending a year in the actual league where he intends on making a (very nice) living?  Besides, if history is any indicator, returning didn’t improve Tim Tebow’s NFL QB readiness.

Some may say that he now faces the cynics and their inevitable comments about whether his dad will be his agent, but he would have had to deal with similar contempt had he stayed in school - plus, with more time to devote to the case, probable additional scrutiny from the NCAA.

Unlike Stanford’s Andrew Luck, he never claimed his goal was to obtain a degree (no offense AU but a degree from Stanford carries quite a bit more cachet).  In addition, there were rumors of academic misconduct while an undergrad at Florida and while the allegation was denied, there was never any indignation regarding the charge, i.e. he was a serious student, only that he didn’t cheat.

As I blogged on 5/6/07 about the decision made by USC’s guard Harold Miner (I was an assistant on the Trojans’ staff at the time), kids don’t go to college to get an education.  Rather:

“Kids attend college to . . . improve their station in life.”

For Cam Newton, that means turning pro.  He should have everyone’s blessing.

If You’re Going to Draft a QB, There Have to Be Some Rules

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

The overwhelming majority of people in and out of football - from those who know just a little something about the game to the “experts” claim that quarterback is the most important position on the team.

If that’s so (and who out there says it’s not?), then using a draft pick - especially a high one, e.g. the first three rounds - must take considerable thought and planning.  Yet, a number one overall pick like Peyton Manning threatens to break every record for that position in the history of football, while a number two overall pick (the same year) like Ryan Leaf threatens seemingly everything (and everyone) else.  Tom Brady gets drafted late and several other QB’s go before him.  I’d imagine there was considerable reevaluating the draft decisions that year. 

Bill Parcells, legendary coach and now president of the Miami Dolphins, seems to have found the “Rules to Draft by” when it comes to picking future signal callers.  These were announced during last night’s Dolphins-Jets Monday Night Football game and, while they may seem rather restrictive, Parcells (and his track record in the game) are not to be scoffed at, lest the “scoffer” be ready for battle, as Parcells has be known to threaten a time or two.

Whatever the case, here are the Tuna’s rules for drafting a quarterback:

1) He must be a senior.  (Bill’s not known for his patience and, usually, the younger the QB, the more time he takes to properly master the job).

2) He must be a graduate.  (Hey, if you’re paying your guy a lot of money and he’s going to handle the ball on every offensive play, he’d better not be a quitter.  Rather, you want someone who takes his responsibilities seriously, e.g. no blowing off the spring semester to get ready for the combines).

3) He must be a three-year starter.  (Once again, a lot of dough, as well as a good portion of the game plan, goes to this guy and it would be awful to get stuck with a “flash-in-the-pan,” someone who waited, got his opportunity but what was overlooked, was that he took over a veteran team that only needed someone to keep a ship from sinking, not one to direct it to the shore).

4) He must have at least 23 wins.  (It’s too easy to put up big numbers with a losing team who chucks it 50 times a game). 

Very stringent demands and not every year will they be met.  That must be exactly what’s behind the big guy’s thinking.  And if no one meets the standards, there’s always a trade, or easier yet, free agency.

After watching the show Chad Henne put on last night - in a game that Steve Young called the best duel he’d ever seen between two young QB’s (and Steve’s someone with the creds to judge quarterbacks), the Dolphins seem to have found their quarterback of the future - and maybe, the present.  Then, again, one-year-starter Mark Sanchez (whom even his own college coach, Pete Carroll - also no stranger to success - said he needed another year of college) looked mighty promising.

Yet, one of the qualities a leader must have is decisiveness and Parcells certainly qualifies in that category.

I have no idea who Eric Langmuir is, but, when his quote is put in the context of drafting a quarterback, it becomes one of the greatest understatements of all time:

“A decision without the pressure of consequence is hardly a decision at all.”

While It’s Not Healthy to Live in the Past, There’s Nothing Wrong with Cherishing Old Memories

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Because I “chased the dream” of becoming a Division I head basketball coach, I moved around a lot - to the tune of 11 different addresses before I was 30.  Granted, some of them were within the city limits of the town in which I was working, but the point is, it wasn’t surprising my former classmates (from Highland Park High School - see yesterday’s blog regarding life in HP) had lost touch with me.

Therefore, it was purely coincidental that I would be in attendance at our 25th high school reunion (to my knowledge the one and only reunion the HPHS class of ‘66 has had).  It was 1991 and I, along with my wife of four years and our two-year-old son, had just moved (my 15th) from Toledo, OH to Pasadena.  I had recently been named associate head basketball coach at USC and was in the middle of a recruiting trip that, on that particular day, had me in Linden, NJ, no more than a half hour from Highland Park.

As I did any time I got into town (borough), I had called a friend of mine from way back.  Although we lived around the block from each other, we never attended the same school, his family opting to send him and his seven siblings to parochial schools, while I went the public school route.  Naturally, it was sports, mainly Little League baseball, that began our relationship.

After getting my rental car at Newark Airport, I drove to his house (most recently, we had worked together at HPHS - when I returned to my alma mater after graduating college and him following suit the next year).  When I arrived, he asked me if I had planned on going to my high school reunion.

“What are you talking about?” I asked him.  Then, I did the math and realized it had, indeed, been 25 years since we’d graduated.  “Are you serious?”

He said, “Vic (a mutual friend) called me and said he was in town for his wife’s (one of our classmates) 25-year reunion.”

At that time, nearly all college coaches who made home or school visits did so in tie and jacket, so I did happen to have the right attire for the affair.  Since my appointment was in the afternoon, I had plenty of time to do my job, come back and get ready.  Although I wasn’t on the list of RSVP’s, I was on the sheet as a ‘66 grad, so I bought a ticket and walked into the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency - where I was absolutely taken aback.  With the exception of one guy, these people looked great!  While I thought I had taken decent care of myself (which wasn’t so easy - working long days, many of which were on the road, filled with fast food meals, ashamedly, some of my favorite establishments), these guys were looking so much younger than I expected.  Of course, like me, several of the boys men had their hair thinned and their waists thickened, but all in all, the years had been rather kind.  I can remember thinking how terrific the ladies looked - and I thought they looked good in high school!

Stories, and business cards, were exchanged and, while I can’t remember specifics, the overall memory of the evening brings a smile to my face every time I’m reminded of it.    

Yesterday, the blog wrapped up with a Jewish proverb.  Today’s quote is also a proverb, this of the Swedish variety:

“Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.”

The Key to Success for 99% of the Draft Picks

Friday, June 26th, 2009

While I was watching the NBA draft yesterday, for some reason, I was reminded of the one in 1983.  I was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee and our best player that year was Dale Ellis.  Entering his senior year at UT, Dale was a consensus All-American, based on his stellar play the previous years, with the most impressive statistic being that he made an unheard of 66% (UT record) of his shots as a junior.

The three point line had yet to be incorporated into the collegiate game.  Our head coach, Don DeVoe (recently inducted into the UT Hall-of-Fame), had the philosophy of pounding the ball inside.  We employed a two in (post players), three out (perimeter players) offense and Dale was one of our posts.  When we didn’t have a fast break opportunity, we ran set plays, the majority of which were to get a high percentage shot (the shot clock hadn’t been introduced at the college level either), usually for one of our posts.

The basketball coach during my college days was Richie Buckelew.  By 1983, he’d become a scout for the Atlanta Hawks.  Following one of our SEC games, he saw me said that I was going to be shocked when he told me what position Dale would play in “the league.”

I didn’t want to look like I had no knowledge of the pro game, so I said to him, “I know - small forward,” ready for him to praise me for my evaluation skills.

“No,” he said. “2 guard.”

During our season, we had broken the players into groups to work with before practice actually got under way.  Dale had been in my group all year and I had told any scout who asked about his range that Dale could easily go out to 18′ and, in fact, that’s where most of our pre-practice shooting spots were.  Never did I think that our center, and for all intents and purposes, that’s the position Dale played for us, could make the transition to second guard in the NBA - and be able to shoot three’s from five feet further out!

Dale’s ballhandling and passing skills were adequate and, while he was an outstanding post defender, mainly because he was so much quicker than nearly all of the big guys he guarded and he had excellent anticipation, there was no way I ever thought he could guard an NBA 2 guard. 

Dale had another great season (capped off by playing to his fourth straight NCAA tournament) and when draft day came, he was being lauded as a Top 10 pick.  The NBA draft was nowhere near the spectacle it is now, but, even though there wasn’t the hype, none of us were disappointed when he was selected ninth by the Dallas Mavericks.

When Dale returned in the summer to finish his degree (a promise he made - and kept - to his mother, i.e. that he’d get his degree), he came by my office.  His mood was nothing short of doom and gloom.  He said how disappointed he was that he’d play great in practices, but when game time came around, he seldom got in.  What made it more frustrating was that, on the occasions he did manage to get quality time, he played very well, e.g. there was a game in which he came off the bench to score 18 - but, that performance was followed by the five most dreaded letters a players can see by his name in a box score: DNP-CD, standing for “Did Not Play - Coach’s Decision.” 

Incidentally, for a couple more intriguing and insightful Dale Ellis stories, purchase a copy of my book, Life’s A Joke for only $10 (I’ll pay the S&H).  Send a check to: Life’s A Joke 365 Sandpiper Ct. Fresno, CA 93730.  

Dale once told me he trusted (that was the word he used) me because I would always give it to him straight.  After hearing his stories about not playing (even though I could see it was really bothering him), I said, “Gee, Dale, it sounds like you’re miserable and you’re really getting screwed.  Why don’t you quit and just get another job that pays you a quarter of a million dollars?” (which was what the ninth pick got back then and isn’t nearly what today’s guys are making, but still is a heckuva lot more than I’m pulling down - 26 years later!

The corners of his mouth turned up, just a little, into one of those “OK, you got me” smiles, and he said, fully understanding my point, “Nah, I think I’ll stick with this line of work.”

I then told him that I had talked to his agent because I, in fact, had been following him through the agate (small print in the sports section, e.g. box scores) and had seen exactly what he’d been complaining about.  His agent told me that one thing he could be thankful for was that, while their coach, Dick Motta, indeed, did not like playing rookies, the Mavs’ organization was not known as one of those that was vindictive, and if they could make a move to better themselves - and a disgruntled player who, for whatever reasons did not fit into their plans - they would move him.

Sure enough, after Dale’s second year with the Mavs, he was traded to Seattle for former UNC star, Al Wood.  Dale flourished in that system, making the NBA All-Star team, before ultimately spending 17 years in the NBA and, when he retired, left as the all-time leader for made three-pointers.  He’s since dropped to third behind Reggie Miller and Ray Allen. 

The morale of the story is, unless you are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, or a can’t miss player (and although he’s far and away the best player available in this draft, I’m not sure I’d even consider Blake Griffin a can’t miss player), the key to your success is . . . are you and what you bring to the franchise a good match for the team that selects you?  If so, you’re fortunate and will most likely enjoy a long and profitable career.  If not - and remember, the higher a player gets picked, usually, the worse a team he goes to, so slipping several spots might just land you on a pretty good team - one which can use the skill set you have and not need you to do more than you are physically - and mentally - equipped to take on.  

There was a story in Sports Illustrated (4/28/08 edition) on Peyton Manning and how, during his initial meeting with the Colts’ coach Jim Mora and its GM, Bill Polian, he said to them, “I’d really like to come here if you want me.”  The true football fan will recall that the year Manning was to be drafted, there was a great debate (as ridiculous as it seems now) as to which player deserved to be the overall number one pick in the draft (with everyone knowing the other would go number two), Manning or Ryan Leaf from Washington State?  Obviously, Peyton felt strongly about his ability, since he continued - and I can’t say I remember anyone else possessing the stones to say anything even close:

“But if you don’t, I promise you I’ll come back and kick your ass for the next 15 years.”

The Old College Try

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Something jogged my memory the other day, and I was reminded of a story from thirty years ago that I’m sure you’ll really enjoy.  It’s from my book, Life’s A Joke, which can be purchased on this website for a mere ten dollars (I’ll pick up the postage charge).  Maybe you can relate.

At Western Carolina, back in the late ’70s, we were a school with a really small budget, not only in athletics but the entire university.  As a matter of fact, the bowling alley had four lanes and did not have electric pin spotters!  Half the class would bowl while the other half would be resetting pins.

Bobby Pate, one of the assistant football coaches and an absolutely great guy, was one of the bowling instructors.  The basketball offices were in the same building as the bowling alleys, so occasionally Bobby would come in before or after his class.

One day at the end of the semester, Bobby came in and I could tell something was bothering him.  I said, “Bobby, what’s the matter?”

He replied, “Jack, do you remember that girl I told you about in the class who was an absolutely horrible bowler?”

“Oh yeah,” I said.  “That’s the girl you said knocked down about two pins the whole semester.”

He said, “Yeah, she was terrible at bowling, but on all the written tests, she aced ‘em.”

“So, what’s the problem with that?”  I saw he was still upset so I added, “some people are more gifted academically than athletically.”

He looked up and said, “Well, there’s really no problem, but when I recorded her grade, I felt like I did her a favor because while she was perfect on every test, every ball but one she threw went into the gutter.  So … I gave her a B.”

I stared at him like he was crazy.  “Bobby, what’s wrong with that?  You were more than fair.”

“Yeah, but I feel awful,” he said, turning kinda melancholy on me.  I was starting to wonder if he was manic depressive - until he finished the story.  “She didn’t tell me this, but I found out from another kid in the class that this girl’s a senior and is graduating next week.  That’s the only B she’s had here at Western in four years.  My bowling class kept her from a perfect 4.0 GPA.  Years from now, when she’s highly successful, somebody’s going to ask her what her grade point average was in college and she’s going to say, ‘I missed a perfect 4.0 by one grade.  I got a B in bowling,’ and the person’s going to ask, ‘What idiot gave you that grade?’” 

I tried to make him feel better by saying, “Aw, Bobby, don’t worry about it.  She’ll get over it.”

He turned and left the office, saying, “I ain’t worried about her.  I’m worried about me!”

Had I known of the famous Johann von Goethe’s line back then, I would have told it to Bobby:

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply.  Willing is not enough, we must do.”

College Basketball Players: Stay or Go? Win-Win or Lose-Lose?

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Another college basketball season is almost upon us and with it will come many arguments.  One which will surface immediately is whether or not Tyler Hansbrough, last year’s National Collegiate Basketball Player of the Year, should have returned to school for his senior year.

Oh, he’ll surely be applauded (loudly, as is his style) by Dick Vitale.  Others will say what a wonderful gesture it is that he wanted to earn his degree and come back to complete what he considers unfinished business - winning a National Championship for him and his Tarheel teammates and coaches.  Yet, there will be others who will say, while all that sounds nice, he may have cost himself a boatload of money. 

I was on a few staffs where our players faced the same decision (although none were that level of player that “Pyscho T” is).  Some stayed, some left.  Some (maybe one) who stayed might have been better served had they left, while more who left, regretted that decision shortly thereafter.  How do you know?  Truthfully, you don’t, but as coaches, we try to do due diligence, leaning on NBA contacts to predict where the player in question would be drafted, e.g. guaranteed first rounder, lottery pick, higher - or would it be a real crap shoot if he were to leave now?  Based on his history with former players, you can bet Roy Williams did a thorough search, even though I imagine he wasn’t too disappointed with his player’s ultimate decision. 

One player I distinctly remember talking to (after he decided to return despite being the conference’s leading scorer and having posted some really big numbers in a couple games - 49 and 51 to be exact).  I told him that all the talk about what he could do when he was a sophomore and a junior was going to change to what he couldn’t do when he became a senior - and that he’d better work on those aspects of his game to negate that type of negative pub.  Also, I said, don’t take any of it personally.  Many people talk you down because they want to see if they can negatively influence others to feel that way - that they really like you and are trying the reverse pysch route.

Hansbrough already has heard that while he’s 6′9″ (somehow, the NBA will claim, after measuring him that he’s only 6′7″ - they do it every year), his arms are short, i.e. he doesn’t have a proportionate wingspan - you know, as opposed to some guy who’s listed at 6′5″ but has the wingspan of a pterodactyl.  The other rap is that, get this, his hustle and all those plays he makes won’t work in the NBA because other guys will have rebounded the miss before he has that second or third chance at it like he does at college level.  I know it wouldn’t be because the NBA guys would outhustle him - certainly not in the first 70 or so games of the season.

So, did Psycho T make the right call?  That can only be known to Tyler Hansbrough himself (and anyone he cares to divulge it to).  Believe it or not, some guys aren’t as swayed by money as much as others.  UNC might truly be his “Blue Heaven” and there are a heck of a lot more people trying to stay in heaven than trying to get out (or so I’m told).  And if he had left, that National Championship question would dog him forever.

One thing the NBA or any other business can deny Hansbrough is his character, especially if you base it on James Michener’s definition of character:

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” 

Does a Football Coach Really Make a Significant Difference?

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Today’s college football coaches are being paid like CEO’s and it’s because, for all intents and purposes, they are.  A great one can not only win games, but account for a substantial contribution to the university’s bottom line - in not only money, but also enrollment.  Ask any admissions officer if there’s a correlation between a winning football program and the number of applications a school receives.  If any of them say it’s not true, you’ve found yourself an admissions director of a school without a football team.   

The job description of today’s football coach includes responsibility for the overall program, meaning: naturally, the won-loss record, but also overseeing recruiting; the academic performance of the student-athletes; their strength, conditioning and nutrition activities; their off-the-field behavior - both positive e.g. community service (appearances at elementary, junior high high schools and youth athletic programs, etc.) and negative (legal problems, negative publicity, etc.); speaking engagements, and fund raising functions.

Yet, regardless of how well the coach performs in all the other areas combined, e.g. the players graduate, they’re in top physical condition (through the use of all natural methods and supplements), they’re pillars of the community with nothing illegal or immoral ever occurring, and the coach is always available to speak to whatever group requests him - and can be counted on to make, not only an appearance, but a difference, in a fund raising event, won’t he still be dismissed if the team’s record is, year after (not too many) year(s), a losing one?  Realistically, at the Division IA level (or whatever the football gods are calling it now), the answer is yes - since what really matters to the overwhelming majority of the school’s supporters is - no surprise - winning.  Independent of what any Polyanna-ish fan proclaims, the number one factor in winning is talent.  It, then, would stand to reason that the best recruiter would be the best coach.  But this is not always the case.

Coaching skills (strategy, play calling, motivation, substitution patterns) still are a major factor in which team wins.  It’s very seldom anyone will hear a coach sincerely say he was out-coached.  Sure, every so often, a coach - usually one who has a glossy record and a great deal of job security (if there is such an animal) - will say he was outcoached, but, usually that comes after a disappointing loss and is preceded by the words: “We were outplayed and outhustled.”  So as not to lose his team by looking like he threw them under the bus (and because the loss was so humbling), he’ll add the “outcoached” part.  Then, it shows a type of team unity (or, at least, plays on the misery loves company theme).

So, can a coach make a difference in any area besides talent?  I still believe he can.  The greatest compliment there ever was, regarding “coaching skill” - and I defy anybody to come up with a better one - was when Bum Phillips, coach of the old Houston Oilers, said of his contemporary, Don Shula, then coach of the Miami Dolphins:

“He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”

   

The Trend in the NBA Draft Is: Select Someone Who Will Produce

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Each year, those who get paid to inform us about which teams will select which players in the upcoming NBA Draft, always point out that there seems to be a trend of some sort.  One year, it was the drafting of high school kids (now made irrelevant by the rule stating a high schooler needs to go to college - or post-high school - for at least one year); another year, it was a fondness for foreign players; some years, it’s playmakers, i.e. guys who can run a ball club and get it into some semblence of an effective offense (much more difficult to accomplish than it sounds); while still other years, it’s guys who can “score the ball.” 

Before I go any further, I realize to be a real basketball insider, you have to be down with the freshest “basketball-speak,” but have you ever heard a statement any more ludicrous than “score the ball?”  What else can you score?  “Gee, Jim, he’s really having trouble scoring the ball tonight, but he’s absolutely deadly scoring his socks … and did you see him score that Gatorade bottle he polished off at the last time out?  Wow, talk about being en fuego!” (Another basketball insider term, or at least, it used to be).  If you can’t “score the ball” in a game of hoops, but still want to be on the squad, you’ve pretty much pigeonholeded yourself as someone who’d better average 15-20 assists/game or be a “shut-down defender.”

As far as this year’s trend, it looks like, of the top 14 selections, i.e. “lottery picks,” 7 or 8 of them will be college freshmen (the “one and done” guys).  There’s some debate that college players ought to spend at least three years on college campuses (mainly supported by people who’ve gone to more than three years of college), but if memory serves me correctly, this type of idea was, or a version of it was, determined to be unconstitutional

When asked if this is a good rule, the anwers I’ve heard have all been in the affirmative, but the reasons have varied: 1) the NBA’s evaluation process is now so much more advanced, as each of the teams have gotten to see the kids (they’ll be spending zillions on) in a highly competitive environment, answering questions they’d never have known if they’d have entered the league straight out of high school, 2) the fans get to see these kids in action so they can relate to them better (how much more acquainted with Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley is the average fan today than if each had turned pro right after whatever type of schooling they were receiving last year?), 3) another year for the NBA to “market” these guys and the remarkable skills they possess and 4) it gives these kids another year to mature as players and young men (like coming from poverty - in many cases - then being on a college campus for one year, followed by a season full of adulation from people you didn’t grow up with, climaxing in getting more money than you’d ever seen in your life will help in making good, sound financial decisions). 

None of these address the question, “What, if anything, are any (or the majority) of these guys doing in college?”  Do they even understand that they’re in college - or do they look at this time as an audition for the job of their dreams?  Is anything going on in terms of an academics or is the “one and done” rule a sham?  What’s their attendance like in class?  And, what kind of courses are they taking?  If the NBA is sending kids they (and the rest of us) know are only going to be there for a single academic year, why not set up a curriculum in: how to choose financial advisors, lawyers and other trustworthy people to help maximize the windfall that will be coming your way (or what to do if that bubble bursts and the dream isn’t realized); explain saving vs spending vs investing; proper nutrition and the effects of putting the wrong foods (as well as illegal substances) in your body, i.e. courses that will mean something to them after their year-long sabbatical and courses that they, if not want to go to, will illustrate why there ought to be exceptions to the rule. 

I’m not trying to be some kind of academic prude.  I’m just saying, “OK, if they’re not allowed to go directly into the league after their scholastic careers are finished, have a contingency plan.”  Let them play, in the developmental league!  Isn’t that what a developmental league is for?  I am realistic enough to know that numbers 2 and 3 above are rendered meaningless should the “D” League become the solution and a whole lot of people would be upset if 2 and 3 weren’t part of the college basketball landscape.  This bit of (unsolicited) advice solves everyone’s dilemmas (I can think of).

When the smoke clears, however, there is only one trend: which young men do the NBA decision-makers think give their clubs the best chance of winning … right now!  And it does nothing to do with “trends.”  The NBA owners, GM’s, coaches, etc. don’t care what the thinking is behind the pick, just that:

“To whom much is given, much is expected.”