BOZICH | Coach K, Roy Williams air ball opportunity to lead college basketball
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The recruit’s name was Mike Miller -- and, yes, he became the Mike Miller who eventually made more than $93 million while playing nearly 17 seasons in the National Basketball Association.
But before he was the Mike Miller that LeBron James wanted on his teams in Miami and Cleveland, he was the Mike Miller that Billy Donovan (Florida) and Roy Williams (Kansas) wanted on their teams in college basketball.
Seemed like a recruiting no-brainer. Roy typically gets his guy, just like Mike Krzyzewski typically gets his guy. That might be why the Tobacco Road Twins are two guys whose blood pressure has not spiked because of the nonsense going on in college basketball recruiting today.
Williams said he doesn’t know this world everybody is investigating. Ditto for Coach K.
I’ll play the laugh track before I cue the videotape from 1998. I won’t even slide in any questions about Corey Maggette or Rashad McCants.
Miller grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota. You didn’t have to have one of those bogus degrees from North Carolina to realize that Kansas had to be the call here.
Tradition. Coaching chops. NCAA Tournament relevancy. Television exposure. Allen Fieldhouse.
Florida had no shot. Kansas had every advantage.
Miller picked Florida.
And, dad-gummit, guess who was one of the first coaches to howl?
Mr. Roy Williams.
That would be the same Roy Williams who gave the “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil response,” last week when he was asked about the slimy world of college basketball recruiting that keeps dripping out of the federal courtroom in New York City.
Here is part of what Williams said last week: ”That world that they are explaining out there, that world that is on national news, I am not familiar with -- period. In 30 years as a head coach I have never had anyone ask me for money, I have never asked any shoe company to recruit for me. I have never asked anyone other than the family what is most important to you. That world -– people are acting like it goes on all the time. It does not go on (all the time). That is a world that I am not familiar with.”
According to this story written in Sports Illustrated by S.L. Price on Nov. 23, 1998, that is not how Roy Williams viewed Mike Miller’s decision to sign with Florida over Kansas.
This is how he reacted, again, according to Price: “I don’t care who Skinny (Miller’s nickname) signs with. I’m turning Florida in.”
The fun was just beginning. The Carolina bond is strong. It wasn’t long before one of Smith’s UNC pals, Eddie Fogler, then the coach at Vanderbilt, joined the discussion, even though Vandy was not a player in the Mike Miller Sweepstakes.
At SEC basketball media day, Fogler questioned the ethics of another SEC coach that he declined to name, probably because he didn’t have to name him. Everybody knew that Fogler was talking about Donovan and his relationship with Bret Bearup, the former University of Kentucky basketball player who later became a financial advisor.
Bearup died last spring. But Bearup was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, a guy who was miles ahead of the game, organizing overseas trips for top high school prospects while developing relationships with them.
Fogler saw that -- and Bearup’s friendship with Donovan -- and said. “It’s all legal, but is it ethical?”
I’ll let Donovan answer the question with the words that he delivered that day, even though Fogler never mentioned him by name:
"I'm outraged," Donovan said of Fogler. "He talks about ethics. Well, we've recruited against him. I challenge his ethics on some of the kids we've recruited against [him].”
Did I mention that was 20 years ago?
Raise your hand if you think college basketball has become cleaner and more gentlemanly over the last two decades -- as television revenue, coaching salaries and ticket prices have soared while labor prices have remained relatively flat.
I see your hand, Mr. Williams. I also see yours, Mr. Krzyzewski. I see the wonderful gear you and your programs display because of those generous deals North Carolina and Duke have with an apparel company.
Sorry, but I must express my supreme disappointment in both of you, especially your recent comments that suggest you’re dumfounded by things that have been said -- under oath -- about the recruitment of Brian Bowen, DeAndre Ayton, Silvio De Sousa and others.
You’re both Hall of Famers, coaches who have won multiple national titles.
You’re at the points in your careers -- Coach K is 71, Williams 68 -- where another national title or another recruiting score will not change your legacies. They're established.
But shrugging and claiming that you’re not aware of this world experienced by so many others around the game has affected what people think about you.
They wonder why you’re being disingenuous. They’re remembering the stories about Mike Miller, Corey Maggette and others who were once on your recruiting radar.
They think you would have been better served saying, “I’d really prefer not to comment.”
But most of all, they’re disappointed that you’re considered leaders in college basketball but that you’ve just air-balled an incredible opportunity to show real leadership.
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