Ethan Sturm | Rules of the Game
Coaching for dummies
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 08:10
I bet you didn’t know this, but I could be the second-best college basketball coach in the country without breaking a sweat.
College basketball coaching in today’s world is an easy game. All you have to do is take a team and promise a bunch of top high-school seniors that you are operating under a one-and-done system. You tell them that after hanging out in college for a year and winning a championship with their friends, there will be no pressure to stay. After all, the next class needs its space.
But despite how easy the game is, no one but John Calipari wants to play it. After getting a commitment from James Young a few days ago, he now has three of the country’s top five recruits heading to Kentucky. Roy Williams at UNC only has one commitment in the top 45. Mike Krzyzewski at Duke has none in the top 30.
You might argue that I couldn’t pull that off with any program, that the Kentucky name gets Calipari the recruits. But he was doing it long before he got to Louisville, taking top guys like Derrick Rose with him to Memphis. While you may not agree with his methods, it’s hard to argue against his success.
You could say that I don’t have the talent to pull a team of egotistical freshmen together and meld them into a championship team. And you may be right. Then again, Calipari isn’t going to have to worry about that much this year, seeing as he’s already recruited twin brothers — ranked second and third in the nation, respectively — to fill out his backcourt.
Must. Be. Nice.
You might think that Calipari is the only one that can pull it off, but it’s beginning to look less likely that that’s the case. UCLA grabbed two top five recruits last year, while Billy Donovan at Florida has two top 10 commitments this year, as well. After the formula resulted in a title in 2012 for Calipari — even if that title later was vacated for recruiting violations, as most of his have been — the rest of the college basketball establishment has been forced to take notice.
So if the formula for success is so easy that even a college sports columnist could do it, where does that leave the sport as it begins a new season? Well, I think we’re headed down a slippery slope. Imagine a world where four teams split up the top 20 recruits amongst themselves each year. They turn over their entire team every year, and while occasionally a Cinderella will upset one or two of them in the tournament, in the end their skill wins out every year. Each of the four becomes a dynasty, and the 344-team Div. I becomes a four-team competition.
Stopping collapse is going to take way more collaboration between the NCAA and the NBA than we should realistically hope for. A talk between David Stern and the college sports big wigs is less likely to be productive than a debate between Romney and Obama. The key would be eliminating the one-year rule, either forcing college players to stay in school longer or not forcing them to go at all.
Let’s be honest here: No one is getting a useful education from a school through one year of study, during most of which they focus on basketball. Let the future NBA players play in their own little separate development league — which, by the way, would draw great ratings — and keep the college game for the true student-athletes, who will also still be able to generate strong TV ratings. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Maybe it’s not the best solution, but it’s better than the path we are headed down right now. You can keep thinking on it. I’m going to go fill out some coaching applications.
Ethan Sturm is a senior majoring in biopsychology. He can be reached at Ethan.Sturm@tufts.edu or @esturm90.