And in some very surprising news, a college basketball coach supports the college basketball system.
Larry Brown brings some credibility to this — he is the only coach in history to win an NCAA title (1988 Kansas) and an NBA title (2004 Detroit) and is remains one of the great teachers of the game.
He’s a college coach again, having turned around the SMU program. Being SMU is in Dallas it was only a matter of time before Brown was asked about Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban’s comment that young players would be better off developing in the D-League than in college.
And you could pretty much guess what Brown was going to say to ESPNDallas.com before he said it.
“They don’t teach guys how to play, in my mind,” Brown said of the D-League. “The head coaches in the NBA and a lot of the assistants do, but [college basketball] is the greatest minor league system in the world. If you didn’t go to one class and just live in a college environment, then you’re way ahead. And I think most coaches are responsible enough to make them go to class, make them go to study hall, give them life lessons.
“How about being around [SMU assistants] Eric Snow and George Lynch? Those two guys played 13, 14 years in the league, have families, are successful. In all honesty, I love Mark, but [college basketball] is pretty good. Now, it’s our job to make [players] realize getting an education is something that’s important, because here’s the deal: Life after basketball is a real long time.”
This does not have to be a “one size fits all” answer. To me this really comes down to the player, more importantly the person.
If we are talking about a sure fire, lottery bound NBA guy — your Andrew Wiggins, your Jabari Parker — or if we are talking about a guy just not cut out for the riggers of college academic life (and there should be accountability and guys forced to get grades, that’s another issue) then the D-League is the call. What Cuban said is true (and Brown misses the mark here) — focused players will develop faster in the D-League. There are no restrictions on how many hours you can practice, no restrictions on how much you can work with coaches, the level of competition is higher and there simply is the fact that basketball becomes your job. You don’t have a school job too. Teams are putting coaches in the D-League now with a focus on developing players.
That said, for the vast majority of players college is the better call. Obviously the majority of college players will not make the NBA, will not get paid to play professionally anywhere, and for them the college degree matters. Even for the guys who might make it know that the average NBA career is less than three years long and you will not make max salary money — they need the degree, the education and those skills to fall back on to make a career however they choose.
More than that — and this is something that matters to teams — college matures people. NBA teams don’t want to babysit rookies and sometimes they do with the younger ones — getting them to practice on time, getting them to eat right, getting them to wash their clothes. If you’re like me college forced me to mature in terms of self-sufficiency, in terms of dealing with a variety of people, in terms of just being an adult. Teams know that more mature players are generally better players.
For another small group of players, going overseas out of high school may be the best option.
This debate does not have to be either or. It just depends on the person.