Former Wisconsin coach Stan Van Gundy, now coach and president of the Detroit Pistons, has little use for the NCAA or the college presidents who support that organization.
“The NCAA is one of the worst organizations, maybe the worst organization, in sports. They certainly don’t care about the athletes,” Van Gundy said before Sunday’s Pistons-Charlotte Hornets game.
Van Gundy was responding to a question about the ongoing FBI investigation of alleged corruption, involving agents, the athletic shoe-and-apparel industry and men’s college basketball coaches. Van Gundy said it’s convenient to write this off as the action of rogue coaches, but it’s actually an indictment of the whole culture of college athletics in the two primary revenue-producing sports, basketball and football.
Van Gundy coached the Badgers in the Big Ten the 1994-95 season before moving on to the NBA. He says college presidents at the country’s prominent basketball programs deserve plenty of scrutiny in this mess.
“Coaches aren’t blameless, but it starts higher than that. Start with the college presidents,” Van Gundy said. “They have said it (with their actions): It’s all about money. And if they say anything else, they’re being hypocritical.”
The recent issues started when four college assistant coaches were indicted as the result of an FBI investigation involving an associate of former sports agent Andy Miller. Friday, ESPN reported Arizona coach Sean Miller’s voice is captured on a wiretap, discussing a $100,000 payment to a player.
Van Gundy finds it disturbing some in college basketball’s culture would treat this more as a problem of appearances than process.
“There are a lot of people that, other than (misdeeds) being in the media, are pretty happy with the way things are going,” Van Gundy described. “The men’s basketball tournament is making huge money and funding the rest of the budget for the NCAA. They don’t want that to go. They want to keep these great players coming in.”
That, Van Gundy concludes, creates a don’t-ask, don’t-tell message to college coaches: “They want you to win, win big, put people in the seats, and get alumni donations. And don’t tell me how you’re doing it.”
A contributing factor in all this is the NBA rule restricting U.S. players from entering the draft until a year removed from their high-school class’s graduation. That creates so-called “one-and-done” players, who spend a single season in college, and are often targeted by agents in advance of turning pro. Van Gundy, in his 12th season as an NBA head coach, says he’s always had a problem with that rule.
“You can turn 18, and go to work anywhere else,” Van Gundy said. “I think a lot of it was racist, quite frankly. I’ve never heard anybody be up in arms about letting kids (of the same age) play minor-league baseball. Or they’re letting these kids come out and play minor-league hockey. They’re making (little) money, and they’re white kids, mostly.
“You’ve got a black kid wanting to come out of high school and make millions, and that’s a bad decision?”
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell