But many coaches agree that just as DNA is the building block of life, NBA—and the temptation of players to audition for it—can cause a team to destruct. Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson has intimated that an eye on the pros is what turned the defending national champion Hogs to slop for stretches of last season. Kansas suffered similarly in the '92-93 season, when guards Adonis Jordan and Rex Walters were seniors; the Jayhawks muddled through the middle of the Big Eight schedule, Williams realized, because his backcourt was playing to the scouts. Williams sat Jordan and Walters down, got both back with the program, and the Jayhawks made it to the Final Four.
In Al McGuire's system at Marquette, during the Warriors' heyday in the 1970s, players from Maurice Lucas to Bo Ellis to Butch Lee fell in line as underclassmen until it was their turn to shine as seniors. Then most of the shots—on the floor and in the media guide—came their way. But during the '90s, blue-chip recruits have become more and more determined to reach the NBA within two years. Thus they expect to take over their teams by the end of their freshman seasons, and that only exacerbates tensions with upper-class teammates.
Consider how St. John's, the school on Utopia Parkway in Queens, N.Y., became the most woefully misaddressed team in college basketball last season. Freshman star Felipe Lopez arrived with such ballyhoo that he had appeared on the cover of SI and was profiled in The New Yorker before he had ever played a college game. There was only one problem: James Scott, a senior who had come in a year earlier billed as the best juco player since Larry Johnson, believed it was his turn to shine. Just before the Holiday Festival, at a players-only meeting, Scott accused Lopez of shooting too much; the Red Storm went on to lose to Penn in that showcase tournament, and Lopez spent most of a sorry St. John's season ceding shots to Scott. Thereafter in tight games Lopez looked reluctant to take the final shot. Red Storm coach Brian Ma-honey has told his players that this season they will go only as far as their first, second and third option—Lopez—takes them.
Now, with Chicago high schooler Kevin Garnett's decision to go straight to the pros, the itchy-freshman phenomenon figures to get worse. "In years past a kid wanted the opportunity to play as a freshman, contribute as a sophomore and start as a junior," says Greenberg. "The hardest thing in coaching now is to get kids to play to their strengths and not just for the holy grail of an NBA contract."
The Swishin' Physician offers a little biochemistry for our guidance: "A player with an eye on the pros is like a mutagen—a cell that has stopped acting like its peer cells and just grows for its own sake. Just as mutagens cause cancer in the human body, they can have a cancerous effect on a team."
III. Use Energy Wisely
On any team, energy is constantly being expended and exchanged; a coach's challenge is to channel it positively. Which leads us to consider friction.
Friction is just heat, right, Chad? "Correct. And heat is energy. Every reaction has something called its activation energy. That's the amount of energy required to get it going. If you don't reach that level, nothing happens."
Even as Duke was winning its second straight NCAA title, in 1992, Christian Laettner mocked Bobby Hurley, sneered at Grant Hill and hazed Cherokee Parks. They each responded on the court by doing something to repudiate Laettner's harsh judgment of them. "When Laettner yelled at somebody, people said, 'Oh, they have friction,' " says Blue Devil coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Baloney. We had communication. Friction is when no one says anything."
But the heat a team generates can be destructive if it takes the form of me-firstism. "Nowadays, even after a win, you have kids saying, 'I should have had the ball more,' " says Stanford coach Mike Montgomery. Adds Pete Gillen, Montgomery's counterpart at Providence, "Kids today don't respect anybody. They don't respect legends who played before them. And they don't respect their own teammates." A coach can contain selfishness by acting preemptively, usually during the recruiting process. But not all do. "At Syracuse," goes the standard Orange recruiting spiel, "we let you be you." That pitch appeals to individualists—at a cost, year in and year out it seems, to Syracuse's team chemistry.