BOZICH | Is college basketball burning? ACC coaches say it's complicated
By Rick Bozich
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDRB) — On the day the Atlantic Coast Conference celebrated its stacked roster of Hall of Fame coaches and dazzling players, even the star power of Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Kyle Guy could not control the news cycle.
Not after the gavel banged down one, two, three guilty verdicts at the game’s corruption trial in New York City.
“Burn the whole thing down,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Let’s get it all out. Let’s take our medicine.”
Notre Dame, if you follow the game closely, doesn’t shop in the Versace section of the recruiting world.
“There are ones where you had a bad vibe and walked away and just said this doesn’t feel right,” Brey said.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell nodded in agreement when I asked if he agreed with Brey’s take that things something smell in the college game. Brownell, remember, was a loser in the pursuit of Zion Williamson, the best high school player in South Carolina who now looks like the Next Great Thing at Duke.
Boston College coach Jim Christian said he does not recruit from the same tank as the top programs, but he said he did not believe Brey and Brownell were wrong.
”We’re a ham and egg program,” said Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams. “Ain’t no one-and-dones on my roster.”
Not everybody is tuned into the same frequency. Williams of North Carolina and Krzyzewski of Duke have a different take. What happened in New York Wednesday did little to budge them from their positions.
It reinforced my view that if college basketball coaches cannot identify and agree on the issues, the problems will keep washing into assorted arenas every season.
Get excited about the game. Then get cynical about the environment.
I discovered that Williams is a reader of WDRB.com. He saw the column that I wrote last week expressing my disappointment that Williams and Krzyzewski, two of the game’s absolute titans, have not been more outspoken to lead the game out of its ethical pit.
The college basketball world of payoffs and cash stuffed into envelopes that was described in the federal courtroom in southern Manhattan is not a world that Williams said he has experienced, starting with his days as a graduate assistant who worked for Dean Smith at UNC.
Williams and I had a pleasant, 10-minute off the record chat. He repeated his story that a recruit has never asked him for anything during his nearly 30 years as a college head coach.
Like Krzyzewski, Williams said basic human flaws are the root of the problems. Around-the-clock investigation and regulation cannot cure that. Rules are trampled in every profession.
“We can improve the situation,” Williams said. “It won’t be easy. But it can be done.”
The message from Krzyzewski was not as uplifting. He said he wished that he had done a better job of expressing his views than by using the word “blip,” when he talked at Duke media day last week. But Krzyzewski also said his opinion was misinterpreted.
“All of us here, every coach here, can talk about the game. But then where does it go?” Krzyzewski said. “What action steps are taken from any suggestions that you might have? And that process is not a clear one in our sport because it’s not organized in such a fashion.
“Who runs college basketball? You tell me.”
One of the 75 or so writers huddled around Coach K suggested that person was NCAA president Mark Emmert.
“Mark Emmert does not run college basketball,” Coach K said, crisply.
“Mark Emmert is the president of the NCAA. So you can’t give me a name. And that is a problem. Because there is no pinpoint response, there’s no leadership. So it’s run by a committee.
“You can’t have a billion dollar industry run by committee and have it keep up to date with all of the things that have occurred within that industry. From outside completion, which the NBA is. It’s great. But it is.
“We are totally reactionary to the NBA. Totally.
“In situations like what just happened, it was a court of law, not something that was done with the NCAA. Like what powers does the organization that is supposed to be responsible for our sport have in making sure our sport is done properly.
“So I have no problem with speaking up. What’s the forum for it? Is this (group interview) the forum? That’s cool. I’m not sure that’s going to lead to anything.
“But if there was a way of incorporating the people that are very knowledgable about the game, care about the game, in an organization and a structure where you can take thoughts into action.
“Look, I’m sorry we don’t have that. I’ve been working over 40 years doing it and we don’t have that.”
What college basketball does have is the same background noise that it had last season and the year before that and they year before that and …
The game has a compelling, entertaining product, headlined by a dynamic league with future pros and Hall of Fame coaches like Williams and Krzyzewski. Another season of ACC basketball is about to begin. And I can’t wait.
But the game also has an ongoing tug-of-war about what the rules should be and how they can be enforced. That isn’t so wonderful.
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.