Mike Krzyzewski has joined a new basketball team.
The Duke head coach is one of 27 college basketball figures involved in the College Basketball Partnership, a new NCAA panel aiming to “address the challenges and opportunities” that face men’s college basketball, NCAA President Myles Brand said.
The panel is facing issues that include recruiting, respect for opponents, fan behavior, sportsmanship and the balance between academics and athletics, said Dave Gavitt, chair emeritus of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
“We’ve been working behind the scenes for several months,” Brand said at a press conference in December. “People need to know that we’re there as a team. This team is going to make a difference.”
Many of the frustrations with the college game were exposed at the end of last season when a record 94 players initially declared early for the NBA draft, foregoing one or more years of college eligibility.
Krzyzewski lost freshman Luol Deng, who averaged 15.1 points per game, to the NBA. The Phoenix Suns selected Deng with the No. 7 pick and immediately traded him to the Chicago Bulls.
One of the topics being discussed is the date when players must declare for the draft. Many coaches, including Krzyzewski, have said an earlier date, possibly right after the Final Four, should be set so that programs have time to adjust their spring recruiting strategies.
The problem was further exacerbated for the Blue Devils when commitment Shaun Livingston made the jump from high school to the NBA and the Los Angeles Clippers selected him with the No. 4 pick last spring. Livingston’s late decision left Duke undermanned at the point guard position.
“We, whether it is a high school or college coach, are restricted in our access to youngsters,” Krzyzewski said in June after he realized Deng and Livingston would go to the NBA. “If they’re around the Knicks, the Lakers, the Celtics, the Bulls and they see these logos and people all the time. Those people are actually allowed to talk to the AAU coaches, sit with the parents in the stands and do all those things, whereas this college coach isn’t in the stands for the last two months.”
Krzyzewski said coaches have been limited in access during recruiting because of a mistrust that began between coaches and administrators in the early 1990s. At this point, however, he says it is time to loosen the regulations, and the committee would work toward this end.
“My feeling is just like with your family, or your son makes a mistake,” Krzyzewski said. “Does that mean you never allow them to do anything again? That’s ridiculous. There has to be some give and take here, like let us do this thing and see if you trust us more. I think that is a logical progression.”
In addition to dealing with recruiting and the relationship between college basketball and the NBA, the College Basketball Partnership will address academic issues.
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Last March, the University of Georgia released 1,500 pages of documents in response to NCAA rules violations of academic fraud and improper benefits.
Among the documents was the final exam for men’s basketball assistant coach Jim Harrick, Jr.’s 2001 “Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball” class.
The 20-question exam included, “How many points does a 3-point field goal account for in a basketball game?” and “In your opinion, who is the best Division I assistant coach in the country?” Harrick gave every student an “A” for the course.
Although the College Basketball Partnership has discussed ethical issues, Krzyzewski said he does not believe it should serve as any sort of governing body. He still believes that it is the NCAA’s responsibility to investigate potential infractions and enforce punishment. Nevertheless, the committee has the opportunity to discuss how to improve communication between coaches and administrators in an attempt to eliminate these problems.
The committee had met twice before it was formally announced Dec. 15 and has its next scheduled meeting in St. Louis during the 2005 Final Four.
For the Duke coach, the committee creates a “unity of purpose” that the game—and its student-athletes—deserve.
“I look at it as a team,” Krzyzewski said. “Our game needs for everyone to be on the same team.... These meetings will lead to action, which I think will give our game unity, a unified voice, a unified commitment.”