The checklist of what to keep tabs on during college basketball’s offseason used to be simple and straightforward. You would look at the pool of underclassmen declaring to take their game to the next level by applying for the NBA Draft, which in turn sparks debate as to whether the decision made is foolhardy or correct.
If you’re curiosity is peaked due to the coaching carousal – a compelling subject matter complete with page-turning traits that with recent history serving as our guide, has taken a firm hold of Providence College and URI fans alike – then no doubt your cup of tea boils down to firings, departures and hirings, though not necessarily in that order.
There’s now a third dynamic to monitor during the sport’s alleged period of respite, though in fairness it might as well be viewed as an epidemic of worrisome proportions.
For the past several seasons Jeff Goodman, the well-connected college hoops writer for CBSSports.com, has compiled a thorough and seemingly no-stone-left-unturned list of end-of-season transfers. Updated last on April 10, Goodman had “375-plus and growing” names of Division I players on the move.
If that number seems alarmingly high, you’re not alone. Obviously we don’t know all of the circumstances surrounding each and every individual case, but chances are the reasons for departing go beyond the many ongoing and different instances of hardship, i.e. homesickness or the desire to play at a school closer to a sick parent/guardian.
What Goodman’s tabulation does is manifest the belief that out there lurks a segment of Division I head coaches who aren’t as dialed into to their programs as perhaps they should be.
Yes, today’s players are part of a look-at-me AAU culture that places the emphasis on individuals rather than team concepts. When the first sign of trouble brews and Player X isn’t happy with his college situation, he informs the coach of his desire to pack his bags rather than toughing it out, the belief that the grass is greener elsewhere.
In the game of life there are allegedly no shortcuts. In college basketball, the idea of players selecting an alternative route is one that’s become far too commonplace – a sad state-of-affairs the NCAA should think about intervening in as the signs of distress grow louder and more disturbing.
With that in mind, here’s a ready-in-waiting proposal that can perhaps slow down what has become a feeding frenzy typically seen when pro sports conduct free agency. Why doesn’t the NCAA grant players and coaches a two-week workout period during the summer months that would allow all involved parties to become even more familiar and closer with one another? On paper it seems to make sense, especially since many players remain on campus fulfilling their summer school obligations.
The fly in the ointment, however, pertains to the coaches. In college basketball circles, July is a time when programs take an important step in evaluating high school talent with the hope of eventually locking players down. There are seemingly endless opportunities for coaches to traipse across the country and sit in uncomfortably muggy, humidor-like gyms, all part of the master plan to catch a glimpse of some big-name prospect.
Sometimes it appears the chase to land said desirables takes coaches to a place where a gulf develops between them and the players already onboard. The idea of building for the future supersedes everything to the point that rare is the summer day when you walk into the basketball office only to quickly discover that the head coach and his band of assistants are pounding the recruiting trails.
Knowing that supervision in the summer is not as tight as it is during the regular season, players in turn engage in late-night pickup games that bring out the best in playground showmanship. These lawless, devoid-of-instruction tussles serve as a prime chance to run free rather than refining one’s skills in a scrimmage-esque setting. While the cat’s away, the mice will … you know how the rest goes.
By taking coaches off the road for a two-week interval, you would not only be supplying them and the players with a prime chance to get a head start on the next season with some serious practice time, but also provide all parties with a golden opportunity to clear the air so to speak. It would serve as a fine time for coaches to define expectations for every single player, which in turn would allow the players ample time to soak in and digest what was said to them prior to the first official practice in October.
If college football can have spring practice, why can’t college basketball follow suit in the summer? The idea of the NCAA limiting teams to one-hour practices a couple of times a week during the fall seems almost counterproductive, as coaches probably spend more time worrying about how to maximize every possible second rather than focusing on specific areas of need.
If the NCAA is truly embarrassed over the transfer list that seemingly rolls on for miles, setting aside some valuable time for coaches and players to converge in the summer might just prove to be the best means to save some ink on the transaction wire.