LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Everybody's joking about the obvious connection, Chane Behanan is transferring to Colorado State. Insert your legalized marijuana joke here. Get your snickers out of the way.
Because this, frankly, is a clear-headed and sober move by Behanan, the former University of Louisville star dismissed via university decree in December for unspecified violations, but under the care of John Lucas in Houston for personal issues that have not been confirmed.
What is official is that Behanan has enrolled at Colorado State. He will begin online courses at the school while still working with Lucas in Houston, and if all goes well (and with Behanan, that's always a big "if"), will be eligible to join the team in the second semester of next season.
Behanan has done three smart things here. First, he is going back to school. That's what he needs to do. He had the option of going the NBA Developmental League route, but the lack of structure there surely would've led to more problems for him not too far down the road.
Second, he has chosen a school far away from Louisville, far away from his hometown of Cincinnati, a school in fairly insular but beautiful Fort Collins, Colo., where he can make a new start and escape many of the influences from his troubled days in Louisville.
And third, he has chosen a coach who can help him. Larry Eustachy has been to some places from which Behanan, presumably, is trying to escape. He understands. Eustachy is an extremely talented coach whose career ran off the tracks because of substance problems. He understands starting over. He is a calm hand in guiding players. And, he wins. U of L coach Rick Pitino spoke of him in glowing terms before the teams met last season in the NCAA Tournament. He's a former roommate of U of L athletic director Tom Jurich and the two remain friends.
"I am extremely excited to have Chane enrolled at Colorado State," Eustachy said in a statement released by the school. "It is a great fit for both of us. He is a tremendous kid, and I really enjoyed getting to know him during his brief visit to Fort Collins."
Yes, there's the legalized marijuana thing in Colorado. It won't have any bearing on Behanan, of course, or any other NCAA athlete, since it remains a banned substance by the NCAA. (I'll spare you my view that it ought to be legal in Kentucky, and soon, that any state whose economy rides on bourbon has no reason to object to marijuana on any kind of health grounds, especially a state which caused a run on heroin by enacting short-sighted prescription drug legislation that -- my prediction -- will cause more deaths by heroin than it will prevent by prescription overdose. Sorry, come to think of it, I didn't spare you my view. I don't partake in any of those substances, but sometimes we go too far in our efforts to child-proof the world.)
Will this work for Behanan? There's no way of knowing. It's fair to say that no school, Colorado State included, knows what it's in for where he is concerned. The only coach who does know is Rick Pitino, who still is smarting that he couldn't help Behanan turn it around. There's little doubt, he's not the coach who turned Rodrick Rhodes loose from Kentucky. He's become more patient, and in fact has taken Rhodes in during his time at Louisville and tried to help him launch a career in coaching. He went every extra mile he could with Behanan.
Only Behanan knows whether he's conquering whatever issues he has to deal with. But it appears he is making that effort, and that he's off to at least what appears to be a respectable start.
"I'm working on becoming a leader instead of a follower," Behanan told Jason King of Bleacher Report during a phone interview Monday. "I'm getting to know myself a little bit better."
I hope it works out for Behanan. Those who criticized Pitino or U of L for persevering with him as long as they did forfeit the argument, then, that any school owes a player anything for any success he (or she) helps it attain. Behanan was instrumental in two Final Four runs, and the team's third national championship. It benefited greatly from his talents. It owed him, once that benefit had been received, to help him through what difficulty it could, unless he became more of a liability than his talent could cover. Was he perhaps allowed to get away with too much? You can make that argument. And you can make it with players all over the nation. But you can't have it both ways. And no one has the market cornered on right — or wrong — behavior.
In the end, with these players, you hope they can get to payday, to that time they've been working for at which they're able to provide for the people close to them. For Behanan, that time remains far away. He has challenges, and not just off the court. He has to get himself going again on the basketball court, where the beginning of his junior season did not live up to the expectations anyone had for him.
Maybe at Colorado State he'll find the right situation and the right coach to set him back on the right road. He deserves that chance, but it remains a long road back.