DURHAM — The NCAA announced several major rules changes last week that, on the surface, look like they’ll change the face of college basketball.
The two headline-grabbing changes were that players will be allowed to hire agents, and undrafted players can return to college.
After reading the fine print of what the NCAA did, however, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is reminded of his childhood, and not in a good way.
“I had an uncle growing up who always said he was going to take me fishing,” Krzyzewski said. “My Uncle Eddie. Really. ‘Hey! We’re going to go to Wisconsin and go fishing! Get some walleye!’ OK, Uncle Eddie. Then, the next year, ‘This summer, we’re going to go fishing!’
“I never went fishing for walleye,” he added.
The changes, even the two that caught everyone’s attention, were examples of the NCAA overpromising and under-delivering, in Krzyzewski’s view.
Players can return to school if they’re undrafted, but only if they were invited to the NBA Combine. Historically, six to 10 players that go to the Combine don’t get drafted.
“I think that will have a minimal impact on college basketball,” Krzyzewski said, “and I don’t think it will have any impact on our program.”
Krzyzewski also pointed out that the new rule differs from the one recommended by the special commission that evaluated the sport earlier this year. “What the commission said was that everybody should be able to do it (return to school if undrafted),” he said. “That’s putting a limit on it.”
Players can, indeed hire agents, but not while they’re still in college. The agent can help them navigate the period after they declare for the draft, when they go to the NBA Combine and interview with teams. If that player then decides to return to school, they can no longer have an agent.
“That agent thing will be interesting,” Krzyzewski said. “To have an agent and then not have an agent? I don’t know. How does that work? You’re my advocate, and then, if I take my name out, you’re no longer my advocate? I don’t see how that works. I’m not against it. It’s the implementation.”
The implementation was the glaring problem with everything the NCAA decided, in Krzyzewski’s view.
“I think a lot of these things have been put out, but they don’t have a plan of execution,” he said. “Before you put something that big out, (ask) ‘How are we going to execute it?’ I mean, I can say I’m going to build a beach house. That’s cool. What’s the plan?”
The decisions were also made without consulting everyone involved. The new agent rule allows “elite” players to hire agents. The task of deciding who qualifies as elite will fall to USA Basketball, which reportedly was taken by surprise when its new responsibility was announced by the NCAA.
“In 2005, we had a USA Basketball summit,” Krzyzewski said, displaying a group photo from the event that he brought to his press conference. “Every party that influenced basketball in the United States was there. Bob Canaby from the National High School Federation. The AAU was represented by Boo Williams. (NCAA president) Myles Brand was there. (NBA commissioner) David Stern was there. The NABC was represented. Coaches were represented. What I would say is that before you do something like (the NCAA rules), you should have one of these.
“You should have one of these where you say, ‘OK, we’re doing this thing about elite athletes. Can any of you really recognize those guys? How are we going to do that?’” Krzyzewski continued. “You might find at that summit, before you put something out, somebody might say, ‘I don’t want to do that. How do you do that? I’m not taking responsibility for that.’ I still don’t see how that will be done without discriminating against somebody, but, again, it’s a good idea, right? It sounds good.”
Krzyzewksi was also disappointed in the changes to the recruiting calendar, which were described in a large 8-10 page document he flipped through during the press conference.
“I’m not sure there’s a coach that could tell you exactly what the recruiting calendar looks like right now,” he said. “(They needed to) put out, ‘Here’s an easy way to look at that.’ User-friendly.”
Two rules changes that would have helped current college players were both voted down by wide margins. One proposal would have increased the time players can spend with coaches in the summer from four hours to eight. The other would have allowed noncoaches like Duke’s director of basketball operations Nolan Smith to spend time coaching players.
“Condi Rice (head of the commission that recommended rules changes earlier this year) said they should be passed,” Krzyzewski said. “Not only were they not passed, they were wiped off the face of the earth as far as the vote goes. … We’re talking about kids before they come (to college) and kids leaving. We didn’t talk about the kids who are here.”
So, while Krzyzewski is happy that the NCAA is taking steps, he’s not sure if the beach house will ever get built, or if walleye will ever get put in the cooler.
“It’s not coordinated, because there’s nobody leading it,” he said. “The process of getting there and the process of making it happen. Who is doing that?”