LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- In basketball terms, it's the equivalent of the, "It's not you, it's me," speech. Or, in this case, maybe it's the, "It's not me, it's you."
Whatever the case, it is a breakup, and earlier this week Stephan Van Treese was on the receiving end of that talk with University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. On Wednesday, he received his release, making him the third player this offseason (and second scholarship player) to leave the program before his eligibility was exhausted.
Van Treese's meter ran out when talented freshman Montrezl Harrell signed with the Cardinals.
Pitino said in a radio interview with WHAS' Terry Meiners that, "I met with Stephan and said, 'Look here's what I would do if I was you. You played two minutes as a freshman, 12 and change as a sophomore, you didn't play last year.' I said, 'We just signed Montrezl Harrell, we've got Gorgui (Dieng) and Chane (Behanan). You're not going to play much. You need to go somewhere and play 35 minutes and see what you can do.'"
In other words, the standard speech. And that's all well and good. He didn't say anything that wasn't the truth.
But it's an unfortunate truth that you see far too often in college basketball. Until multi-year scholarships become the norm (and they need to), this is going to be the case. Players can lose spots to injury, or for any other reason be recruited over, and that's it. Still, even with multi-year deals, Van Treese probably would've had the same experience.
It's not like this isn't repeated all over the country all the time. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com compiles a list of transfers every year. As of April 10 it included 425 players, and has only grown since then.
So there are 425 stories -- coach told the player he wouldn't play, player didn't like the coach, player got homesick or hurt. You name it.
My issue isn't so much with transfers. And the only time fans have a problem with it is if it's at a rival school. Your rival coach runs a player off and he's a jerk. Your coach does it and he's "doing what's best for the program."
Coaches are always going to take the best players they can get, period. Forget all the song and dance; they're going to take the best players.
Louisville First? You better believe it. Cards Forever? Depends on availability.
But each of those transfers is different. Some were up in arms about Jared Swopshire not being renewed by Pitino after struggling through injuries. In fact, some three-point shooting by Swopshire was huge in beating Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.
With Swopshire, the system worked. He graduated. He received four years of education at U of L and played as much as his health allowed. At that point, you hate to see him go because he's a quality person, but the school lived up to its end of the deal. And Swopshire transferred to Northwestern, where he not only gets to play right away, but gets a start on a quality graduate school.
I had little issue with that. With Van Treese, the problem is that he might or might not be eligible to play at a Division I school right away, depending on an appeal to the NCAA, and that's wrong.
Here's my problem. In the case where the coach makes the "you're not going to play" speech and advises a transfer, there's no reason a player should have to sit out for a year. It's one of the more significant injustices in college sports. (And I know, the player has the option of staying, but what player wants to stay after being advised to leave? Though I can think of a few players Pitino said wouldn't play who wound up surprising him, Russ Smith being the latest.)
Van Treese was working out to play next season. He did all of his rehab. He was, in short, doing his part. Why should he be penalized because the school recruited over him? If anybody ought to have to be penalized, it's U of L.
But that's not how the system works. Pitino advised Van Treese to transfer to Bellarmine, play right away (which you can do at the NCAA Division II level), get significant minutes, then see where he stands to get one more year of eligibility as a graduate.
Van Treese, as transfers almost always do, said all the right things. That he holds no grudge, that he doesn't regret a minute of his time at U of L, and he probably doesn't.
Still, for a program that has cast itself as one that develops players over time, including guys that no one thought would reach their level of achievement (Russ Smith, Chris Smith, etc.), the fact remains that if a better player presents himself, talent trumps it. Hardly a news flash. It does everywhere.
The program rolls on with Final Four aspirations -- bolstered, in fact, by Harrell's arrival. But for a program that, in the end, rode chemistry to the Final Four last season, a couple of positive elements have been removed from the mix now.
There's plenty remaining, of course. But chemistry is no match for talent when it comes to the roster, no matter what anyone's slogan is.