Coast to Coast

Dave Adelman : Coast to Coast

Listen to a Former Student Manager
By Dave Adelman
Pete Thamel has it right, not necessarily something is wrong with the Virginia vs Texas Tech Championship Game, his take on college basketball to start preparing for changes.  These quotes from Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski are the story of the college basketball offseason:
“We need a plan,” said Boeheim, the second Hall of Fame coach who has directly called out the NCAA’s lack of direction in the past two weeks, joining his friend Mike Krzyzewski. “We need someone who runs college basketball who knows what he’s doing.”  
I am going to play the part of someone who knows what he is doing, because if these two hall of fame coaches are asking for help, take it from a former student-manager (Pitt 89-94) and former college coach (94-2003).  Chris Beard is a former student manager and he just won NCAA coach of the year, so if a former student manager can be the top coach, maybe one can be the leader that college hoops needs.  I am going to focus on three points, but try to keep them short as a lengthy, researched article is better served written from a Mike DeCourcy or Dan Wetzel.
1) Do Not Change the One & Done NBA Rule
2) Pay the Players
3) Stop Devaluing the Experience of Playing College Basketball
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I know I already lost your belief in me because everyone seems to agree that we should eliminate the NBA age limit rule.  However, I am also going to make you think about this deeper than the caveman answer of free-market.  I urge Adam Silver and the Players Union to not change this rule.  This rule is beneficial to the NBA, beneficial to College Basketball and it is beneficial to 99 percent of the kids who will eventually play college and even professional basketball.  
The NBA is a better product by having 18 year old kids playing college basketball instead of professional basketball.  I could certainly research this heavily with a great deal of evidence to prove my point.  I will go with a small dose of evidence.  How many players that enter the NBA after only one year of college are All-Star level players as rookies?  
Let’s just look at the last two drafts.  DeAaron Fox, Laurie Markannen, Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith would all be considered very good picks and probably would lead the 2017 draft of one and done players.  They have all completed their 2nd year in the NBA (Junior year of college) and none of them are All-Stars and only Tatum has played in the playoffs.  It is possible the 3 best players in this draft will not be one and done players: Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma, and John Collins (no all stars).  
The 2018 draft would probably not be considered as good as the 2017 draft at this time, but the only really prepared for NBA player was Luka Doncic given his Professional experience.  Trae Young has shown in the 2nd half the star potential we all saw in him the first three months of his college career when he absolutely dominated college basketball.  
Imagine if we take the top 7-10 players from high school every year into the NBA?
There will be a lot more mistakes than people think and teams drafting high in the lottery will be hurting themselves relying on players that cannot produce for possibly three years, or they get drafted by better teams later in the draft and sit on the bench because they are not ready for playoff basketball or better than the starters on a playoff team.  
So, instead of these 7-10 players struggling in the NBA as rookies either on bad teams or not playing on good teams, sitting in dysfunctional locker rooms or playing for soon to be fired coaches, they will be excelling in college, playing for great coaches, experienced mentors and getting the game experience and maturity needed.  Ja Morant will be drafted ahead of Colby White this year – is that because he will be the better NBA player or because Ja had one more year of polish, maturity and coaching to his game? 
It is fair to argue that Zion Williamson could have played in the NBA this year and be one of the few players that could have impacted an NBA game as a rookie.  However, does Zion Williamson lead Phoenix to the playoffs this year on that roster or Memphis, or Sacramento or Atlanta or Dallas? Would he have been better served being Deandre Ayton this year or playing for Duke? I will expand on why playing college basketball is beneficial to the players, so let’s first get to why you really want Zion Williamson and all these so called NBA ready players to skip college:
We are tired of watching college basketball players not get paid, while schools pocket millions of dollars for their endowments, get tax breaks, build insane facilities, pay head coaches in the millions, and have raised salaries for everyone in athletic departments from assistant coaches to athletic directors to strength coaches, etc.  Everyone is getting paid except for the players.  I am not writing this article for the clowns who think players should not get paid, so I can skip the part of why they should be paid.  I believe every year that players are not being paid is criminal, and I am holding accountable everyone involved for trying to maintain an archaic system unfair to the student-athlete.
I am not interested in hearing about replay, rules changes, recruiting violations, shoe companies, AAU Basketball or the upcoming complaints about style of play.  First, Virginia could not win playing their system and now they are ruining the NCAA Championship game – ridiculous!  The Rice Commission dealt with everything but what is really important.  The only story regarding college hoops this offseason should be how do we compensate the players for producing a system where billions of dollars are being made, while coaches continue to move job to job making millions?  Can anyone really debate that the investment these colleges are making in scholarships for student-athletes is not being rewarded by more than 10 times of that value?
It is time for college players to be compensated, and I do not really care how they make this system work. If college basketball and football have to separate as professional sports in the power conferences, colleges lose their tax exempt status, or athletes need to be treated as employees, something needs to be done.  
I have always asked why college coaches can receive such large incentive based bonuses, but that system cannot exist for players.  Should players at Loyola University Chicago receive money every year?  I doubt that Loyola University athletics generally produces revenue, but the 2017-18 season they sure did. I know that Porter Moser of Loyola received a pretty hefty raise, and I am sure that raise filtered through his program and into the athletic department.  It undoubtedly brought a financial windfall for the school they have never received from basketball.  Is there any reason those players should not have shared into some of that windfall?
I want players to be paid and not paid for their likeness or autographs, commercials, etc. Do we really want the recruiting battle between North Texas St and Abilene Christian to be what money coaches and athletic departments can secure for players through marketing?  I know that sounds silly, but recruiting is about finding any edge.  Let’s say Abilene Christian has a multi-millionaire alumni who wants Abilene to win the Southland and play in the NCAA Tourney.  What stops him from promising a commercial spot for his car dealership that could pay $10,000 or more.  The unintended consequences of this rule would destroy college hoops.
This is also letting the Universities off the hook! The people who should be paying the student-athletes are the people benefitting from the student-athletes – the Universities themselves. This leads to my third point of not devaluing the scholarship that college student-athletes receive or the experience of playing college basketball at the highest level.  
Zion Williamson, the one player in the last 5 years that may have been good enough to go straight to the NBA absolutely benefitted from playing college basketball.  His NBA draft value went up, NBA & personal market value went up, received coaching from “the best coach in college basketball.”  Those were Zion’s words.  If playing college basketball was beneficial to Zion Williamson than it is really beneficial to the other thousands of college basketball players.  I want the Zion Williamson’s to help the other hundreds of college basketball players in the world to get paid.  If we eliminate the stars of college hoops, we will see a drop in the value of college basketball which means there will not be an impetus to pay players.  
I am sorry if I am not shedding a tear that Zion may have to wait one year to sign an NBA contract that will pay him millions and marketing opportunities that will guarantee him eventually being a Multi-Millionaire based on one year at Duke.  My tears are for Mohammed Diakite who will graduate college and maybe play professionally, but probably never for the millions reserved for Zion Williamson.  He hit maybe the biggest shot in Virginia history that brought millions more dollars to Virginia that will not be going to the players, but it will surely enhance the pockets of many Virginia employees.
There are hundreds of college basketball players every year graduating with nothing more than the value of their scholarship. Imagine how much better it would be if these kids graduated with a healthy start to succeed in their lives after college. My dream is seeing every college basketball player in major Division 1 football and basketball who graduates to leave college with money in his pocket, money in the bank, and the opportunity to invest in himself.  I think that is fair payment for what they bring to the University that employs them.  College basketball needs the 30 players that are drafted in the first round of the NBA every year to help get the hundreds of college basketball players a piece of this billion dollar business they so richly deserve.
College basketball does need a plan, because it has 3 years to figure out how to make this right for student athletes and the future of college basketball, or my next article will be imploring Adam Silver to create a minor league system to rival that of baseball and hockey.