The NBA gave itself a nice pat on the back last week when it announced the hiring of Stephanie Ready as an assistant coach with the Greenville ( S.C.) Groove of its new National Basketball Development League ( NBDL). While the NBA is to be lauded for making Ready the first woman to coach in a men's pro sports league, it should be less proud of the man she'll be working for.
That would be Groove head coach Milton Barnes. From 1991 to '96 he was an assistant at Minnesota, where he figured prominently in the academic fraud scandal that led to the departure of coach Clem Haskins and the overhaul of the university's athletic tutoring program. According to tutoring-office secretary Jan Gangelhoff, Barnes edited some of the papers mat she wrote for players and advised her on how to make the course work appear more like something written by an athlete. After academic counselor Brian Berube alerted a tutor to possible cheating, Barnes wrote an intimidating memo chastising Berube for pursuing the matter outside the basketball program and intimating that Berube was racist for questioning a basketball player's classwork. "I have lost total respect for you as a man and as a person who has the best interests of young people at heart, especially those of color," Barnes wrote.
Barnes says he did nothing improper, and Minnesota's investigation concluded there wasn't enough evidence to confirm or disprove the allegations about his involvement in players' school-work However, Eastern Michigan, where Barnes had modest success as head coach after leaving Minnesota, refused to renew his contract in 2000 partly because of his ties to the scandal.
College scandals have rarely given the NBA cause for concern. Butch Carter, bagman for improper payments to a Cal player in the mid-1990s, coached the Raptors for three seasons, and Jerry Tarkanian ( UNLV) and John Calipari (UMass) jumped to the pros from badly tarnished college programs. The NBA is similarly unfazed by Barnes's past. "It gave us no pause whatsoever," says Karl Hicks, NBDL senior director of basketball operations. "He had some great teams at Eastern Michigan, and he did the most difficult thing for a coach to do—put together back-to-back 20-win seasons [in 1996-97 and 1997-98]. We feel Milton is a high-potential coach."