Posted: Tuesday November 21, 2006 2:08PM; Updated: Tuesday November 21, 2006 3:39PM
Seth Davis will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his Hoop Thoughts column.
Ronnie Chalmers is currently Kansas' director of basketball operations and his son, Mario, is a starting sophomore guard. Shady? Perhaps -- but no less shady than former KU coach Larry Brown's decision two decades ago to hire Ed Manning, who at the time was working as a truck driver in North Carolina. Manning's son, Danny, came to Lawrence (ironically spurning UNC, Brown's alma mater) and eventually delivered the Jayhawks to the 1988 NCAA title. A lot of people thought Brown's move was sleazy, but I can introduce you to 2.6 million residents in the state of Kansas who would argue it was the most brilliant hire in college basketball history.
A lot of my colleagues feverishly wrung their hands last spring after newly hired Kansas State coach Bob Huggins poached assistant Dalonte Hill straight off of Bobby Lutz's staff at Charlotte. Hill is a former coach with the elite summer club D.C. Assault, which featured stud 6-9 forward Michael Beasley. At the time Huggins hired Hill, Beasley was committed to Charlotte, but this month Beasley signed to play for -- you guessed it -- Kansas State. Huggins was slammed for the move, but did it ever occur to the slammers that Lutz may have also hired Hill for the purpose of getting Beasley?
This past summer, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon hired another D.C. Assault coach, David Cox, to be his director of basketball operations. One of Pitt's four early signees is Darnell Dodson, a 6-7 forward from Greenbelt, Md. Care to guess which AAU team Dodson played for?
You can even connect dots at that noted bastion of hoops dominance, Colorado State. Last spring, embattled Rams coach Dale Layer hired Brian Joyce, who had spent four years as head coach at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo. During the early signing period, CSU inked two Northeastern recruits, who next year will join a roster that already includes two more of Joyce's former players at Northeastern. One of those players, 6-3 guard Tyler Smith, is arguably the best recruit ever to come to Colorado State.
A more incendiary scenario just unfolded in Bloomington, Ind., where first-year IU coach Kelvin Sampson signed 6-2 guard Eric Gordon after Gordon reneged on his oral commitment to Illinois. It certainly didn't hurt Sampson's cause that he hired not one but two assistants with direct ties to Gordon: Jeff Meyer, who coached Gordon's father at Liberty University, and Travis Steele, who coached Gordon in summer ball and is the team's new video coordinator. Is that ethical? I suppose your answer depends on whether you live in Illinois or Indiana.
It does not take a lot of research to uncover many more historical examples of what could reasonably be construed as "package" hirings. Dale Brown practically invented the idea back in his heyday at LSU. (Former Tigers Rudy Macklin, Nikita Wilson and Stanley Roberts all arrived in a package.) WadeHouston was Darrell Griffith's high school coach before he was an assistant at Louisville. After Houston was hired at Tennessee, his son, Allan, backed out of his commitment to Louisville so he could play for his dad. (Yes, athletic directors can play this game, too.) Current Creighton coach Dana Altman was Mitch Richmond's junior college coach before he joined the staff at Kansas State, Richmond's alma mater.
And right on down the line: Billy Tubbs hired Wayman Tisdale's high school coach at Oklahoma, Steve Fisher hired Jalen Rose's high school coach at Michigan, Rick Pitino hired Jamaal Magloire's high school coach at Kentucky, Steve Lappas hired Tim Thomas' high school coach at Villanova, Billy Donovan hired Mike Miller's AAU coach at Florida and John Calipari hired Dajuan Wagner's father, Milt, at Memphis. Calipari also gave Dajuan Wagner's high school teammate and best friend a scholarship to Memphis, just to be sure.
When I first started poking around this stuff many people -- noting that I am a Duke grad -- would remind me current Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was hired at Duke as an assistant from DeMatha in Hyattsville, Md., the same high school that produced Duke great Danny Ferry. More recently, TrajanLangdon's father was a visiting professor of anthropology at Duke while Trajan was playing for the Blue Devils. Before moving to Durham, Steve Langdon worked as an anthropology professor at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, so I have no doubt he was well-qualified for that position. Who's to say that's not also the case for all the examples listed above?
Hiring a coach on the condition of a player's enrollment is a direct violation of NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.1, which prohibits any kind of "verbal employment agreement." But even when you can see a quid and a quo, it's very hard to prove a pro. (Former New Mexico State coach Neil McCarthy is the only recent example of a coach sanctioned for violating this bylaw back in 1996.) I'm not thrilled that this kind of thing is going on, but if I really try to put myself in these coaches' shoes -- if I imagine my livelihood hangs on the whims of 17 year olds -- I can't honestly say for sure I would do anything different. Coaches have to win or they're fired, and a coach needs good players to win. If making a package-deal hire constitutes selling out, maybe that's not all that heavy a price to pay.