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Men’s College Basketball Coaches Weigh in on the State of the Game

Coaches from the Big 12, Big East, and A-10 shared their thoughts with Boardroom on some of the bigger issues surrounding college basketball.

We’re just days away from the start of the 2022-23 men’s college basketball season, and with it, we’ve hit all the major preseason milestones. The AP Poll is out, the preseason watchlists have been posted, KenPom has updated, and Jim Boeheim has started saying wild stuff.

Before we know it, they’ll be tipping off at the Maui Invitational.

As we enter this year, it’s impossible to deny that the college sports landscape has never looked quite like this. The NCAA now has a one-time transfer rule that allows players to switch schools without sitting out a year. NIL means players can make money, and yes, that factors into where they go to school and for how long they stay there. Conference realignment never stops and basketball continues to be a casualty.

Fortunately, for us here at Boardroom World Headquarters in New York, coaches from the Big 12, Big East, and Atlantic 10 were all in town recently, giving us a chance to pick their brains on the future of college hoops.

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How The Job Of Being A Head Coach Has Evolved

Fran Dunphy (La Salle): It’s different. You’re going to evolve. I’m different as a coach today than I was 10 years, 20 years ago. I’m demanding, but I’m a different demander at this point. I’ll give you a quick example. We’ve been at this thing for a couple weeks now, full practice time. Well, 20 years ago I’m going 2:30, 2:45. It’s not what you do these days. You get more work out of quicker periods of time and you do more film work. The sophistication of film is such great a teacher. So we’re all evolving. 

Archie Miller (Rhode Island): It changes sometimes at the drop of a dime. Every six months. The sport is changing, realignment has changed it, the transfer portal has changed it, and now most recently NIL has changed the planet in terms of how college athletics is operating. I think as a coach if you’re not paying attention, if you’re not on top of things, maybe you’re behind. You’re somehow not as on top of things as you can be. The reason I say that is 99% of this stuff impacts your players. If you wanna do a great job for your players not only on the court but off the court, you have to be ahead of the times. You have to have the vision to say as the world changes you want to be up to speed so our players are treated the right way. Our players are given the opportunities to experience the best they can while they’re in school.

Shaka Smart (Marquette): I think the particulars have changed but the core of the job has not changed. It’s still about relationships. Still about helping these guys grow at a very formative time of their lives. Now you’re talking about retention being more important than recruiting, particularly for a program like us that primarily recruits high school guys. You’re talking about name, image, and likeness and trying to navigate that, and at the same time supporting the players in taking advantage of name, image, and likeness, and also keeping it from disrupting team culture and the focus on the main thing, which if you look at football, some guys have succumbed to that. They’ve been more focused on off-the-field stuff — NIL, social media, whatever it may be — and it’s actually hurt their careers. 

Recruiting

On recruiting in the portal:

Greg McDermott (Creighton): Before you had immediate eligibility, you were thinking two years ahead with transfers because they’d come and sit out one. Now, if you have a need like we had this year, we bring Baylor Scheierman in and he fits perfectly with that piece we’re missing. I think it makes you think differently, but I still want to try to maintain the ability to build a program, and I think as soon as you totally commit to the transfer portal and you get away from recruiting high school players, you enter a cycle of building a new team every year rather than building a program. I got into this business because I enjoy building a program. 

On how NIL affects recruiting:

Scott Drew (Baylor): With our program, a lot of the players that we recruit, their goal is to be in the NBA. A lot of them come from families that value academics and Baylor being a Christian school, that plays a part into it. NIL is a part of it but it’s not something that we lead with and it’s not something people decide to come to Baylor on because at the end of the day, the most important reasons — our development, our culture, winning, a chance to reach their goals of playing at the highest level. Obviously their NIL. Most universities you go to, you’re gonna be able to benefit off that. 

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NCAA Changes Coaches Would Like To See

Drew: Right now, the NCAA has gone through so many transitions. For college basketball, I think coaches want — with the transfer portal — we want there to be a one-time transfer, but we want it done during those windows and we would like it to be one-time. In the last two years, 29% of players who have entered the transfer portal aren’t at other NCAA institutions — they’re either not in the sport or they haven’t gone to another school. Basically, they’re left hanging. So if 30%, roughly, aren’t getting an education and aren’t part of NCAA schools, that’s alarming. We all know it’s hard to transfer two or three times and get a degree because no matter where you go, hours don’t all transfer. At the end of the day, some are gonna play professionally, but I heard a stat that 96% of professional athletes still get a job afterwards. That degree does matter. So I think if you’re waving the wand, one-time transfer, that’s it, no waivers, set periods when you can do that, and let’s make sure student-athletes are able to graduate.

Bob Huggins (West Virginia): I think that what they need to do is run it by some coaches before they make some very drastic decisions. Much like what they did when we had the — and thank God we did — the black coaches have the sit-in because they were making things unrealistic for kids. There’s a really terrible lack of communication between those people who think they know what they’re doing but really are not involved on a day-to day-basis with young people and coaches who are involved on a day-to-day basis. I think it’s gotten better but I think it can continue to improve.

On the Court:

On potential rule changes

Sean Miller (Xavier): I have a lot of experiences with FIBA. Being over in Europe, playing and coaching against FIBA teams, watching how that game is played, I think there’s a lot of good that any league can adopt from some of their rules. No. 1, the shot clock continuing to move toward 24. I think it’s great for the players, I think it’s good and healthy for our game. I think four quarters, from a strategy perspective, can make the game even better. 

On adopting more FIBA rules

McDermott: I’m not a fan of widening the lane. I’m also not a fan of the 24-second shot clock. Sometimes I think we move too close to the NBA rules and I just feel the NBA has a lot of situations where you get the ball in someone’s hand with six seconds on the shot clock and they go make a play. They have the best players in the world. I just think in the college game if that’s the case, the product may suffer. You don’t have quite the level of player trying to make decisions in a short shot clock situation. I think the game’s really good. I think the popularity is at an all-time high. I’m not someone who wants to change something that’s working well.

Potential College Basketball Summer League

Smart: I’m not a fan of it right now. I think a lot of coaches are. I’ve been told that Dan Gavitt is, and I’m a huge fan of his. But I think right now we really gotta consider, first and foremost, the players. There’s been some mention of them being able to benefit from NIL off of that. In a vacuum that sounds great, but the demands in these guys already is through the roof. They need time. Their bodies need time, their minds, their hearts, their souls need time away from the season. And we work our ass off in the offseason. These guys are here all year on campus, but I think when you bring in real games, whether they count or not, if they’re on TV they’re real games, you’re introducing a whole new element. So for right now, I’m not a fan of it. I certainly am not an expert on the whole subject and I can be convinced otherwise.

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