Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coach Cal and his Shady Recruiting

Sure, Memphis lost Derrick Rose, CDR, and Joey Dorsey from the team that was a couple made free throws away from a national title, but don't expect the Tigers to fall too far from the top of Conference USA. They already have one of the best recruiting classes in the country, headlined by spring signee Tyreke Evans, but they added to it yesterday when CJ Henry decided to enroll in classes at Memphis, making him eligible to be a walk-on for Coach Cal.

Why, you ask, is it newsworthy to talk about a walk-on for Memphis?

For two reasons. First of all, in 2005, when Henry was a senior in high school, he was one of the most sought after recruits in the country out of Putnam City High in Oklahoma. Memphis wanted him. So did Texas, Kansas and just about every other school in the country. One assistant coach who recruited Henry out of high school told Jeff Goodman

"I loved him," the coach said. "He's a big guard who can score the ball. He's explosive and can really shoot it. He's more of a combo guard, but I think he can play the point. Because of his size and athleticism, I think he can play right away."
The thing is, the kid was also a great baseball player, getting picked 17th overall by the Yankees and lining his pockets with a $1.6 million signing bonus from George Steinbrenner.

Well, that baseball career never panned out. Between vision problems, poor performances, and injuries (this season alone he sprained his neck in an outfield collision and his knee in a collision at home plate), he never quite got on track. But in the contract he signed with the Yankees, it said that the organization would foot the bill if and when Henry decided to go to school. So, after hitting just .234 at single A this year, Henry called Coach Cal and Bill Self (he originally committed to Kansas) to gauge their interest and not 24 hours later, he was enrolled at Memphis and ready to take the court. He's not quite in basketball shape (at 6'4", he's up to about 220 lb), but given how wide open the Memphis backcourt is this year, expect Henry to compete for major minutes.

There is another reason that Memphis and Kansas wanted CJ Henry the second time around, and that is his little brother Xavier (pronounced ZAV-ee-yay), one of the top recruits in the class of 2009 (#3 on Rivals). And it just so happens that his top two schools are, you guessed it, Memphis and Kansas.

Now neither of these programs are averse to shady recruiting tactics and "package deals". Mario Chalmers father, Ronnie, was hired by Kansas the same year that his son decided to play for the Jayhawks and left the position when Mario headed to the league. Memphis is worse. Milt Wagner worked for Memphis for six years as a result of his son DaJuan deciding to play there. Already this summer, Coach Cal has hired Lamont Peterson (the trainer and coach for Evans) and Bilal Blatley (who is very close with 2009 commit Nolan Dennis). He also "allegedly" requested the CEO of FedEx to call the mother of recruit Abdul Gaddy, who happens to be a customer service rep for the company. And all this on the heels of Scott Drew hiring #1 recruit John Wall's AAU coach.

Now to be honest, I am not sure if the CJ Henry decision is a package deal. His family was apparently surprised by his decision, and because it was so quick, it is very possible that CJ Henry knew that since his brother was so coveted by the two schools and he didn't need a scholarship that both schools would jump at the idea of having him on the roster. But there is no way that Coach Cal and Bill Self did not at least have the thought run through their minds that getting CJ would give them an edge for landing Xavier.

Based on how commonplace this practice has become, many people might not realize that it is in fact illegal for a school to hire someone close to a recruit for the specific purpose of trying to get that recruit to attend school. In fact, the NCAA has recently made an effort to crack down on college basketball recruiting, including these package deals. Just this spring, the NCAA created a three-person group devoted entirely to keeping an eye on illicit recruiting practices. Despite all of the blatant violations, no schools have received anything more than a slap on the wrist for it since New Mexico State in 1996, mainly because intent in this type of situation is so hard to prove.

But apparently tougher enforcement is not the only thing the NCAA is looking to improve. They also want tougher legislation. During last year's Final Four, an initial working group, headlined by David Stern and Myles Brand, was brought together to discuss the problems facing youth basketball in this country. In their summary report, they said
When an institution hires an individual who has either coached or is related to a prospect who ultimately enrolls at that institution, there should be a rebuttable presumption that the hiring violates NCAA legislation. This presumption would be triggered if the individual were hired within two years, either before or after, of the prospect's initial enrollment at the institution. The burden would then be on the institution to prove to the enforcement staff that the hiring did not violate NCAA rules.
It sounds like a great idea on paper.

Personally, I am still torn on the issue. Yes, it can be unethical. Yes, it opens up doors for funneling money to players and their families. Yes, there are a lot of instances where this is just another adult sidling up with a talented kid just to try and make some money. But I'm willing to bet that many of these package deals are simply an 18 year old kid wanting to be around people that he knows, to have people he is comfortable with in his life.

Think about it like this. You are a kid from a poor family in Brooklyn. The only time you've ever left New York City is to play in high school and AAU basketball tournaments. You are getting recruited to play all over the country, and eventually decide that going to Duke is the best way to further your career and your education. But Durham is a long way from Brooklyn, and you want people that you know and you trust around you. Your parents can't go because you have three siblings and they need to be in Brooklyn. So who would you and your family be the most comfortable with being down there to help you? How about the AAU or high school coach that helped keep you out of trouble and who has coached, trained, and mentored you for the last four years of your life. But he isn't made of money, so he needs something to pay the bills while he is in Durham, so Coach K offers him a position within the Duke athletic office.

Is that really unethical?


JLP said...

Part of the reason ANY coach is hired is because of their contacts, whether player contacts or coaching contacts. Would you care to hire a coach who had no contacts? Preposterous. This article is full of inuendo and half-truths, which are tantamount to full lies. This is little more than lazy "journalism" and merely detracts from substantive discourse about the subject.

Dean said...

You're the moron. You spout opinions and rumors as if they are facts. They are not.

You're first mistake is listening to anything Goodman has to say about Memphis. He is extremely biased in any reporting he does about Memphis and Calipari and hates with a passion both.

1)Why would Cal hire keep Milt Wagner on staff for 6 years to have someone he knew would be one and done. That would be stupid. Milt was clearly a valuable assistant.

2)Tigers have always been considered the favorite for Evans. There wasn't even a staff opening when he committed.

2)Evans could have just chosen Villanova, which was his second choice, if he wanted to be with Peterson.

3)Peterson and Blately are taking jobs with Memphis that have little pay, no coaching, no benefits, and only are 8 month commitments. They are basically intern type positions. There is little to no benefit to a career or financial gain. Not exactly the making of a great deal or package. They wanted to be close to their future NBA star and Calipari wanted to have their deep contacts to others coming up.

That's not "shady hiring". It's smart coaching.

Last, you are spreading a complete lie. There has been absolutely nothing reported to even suggest that Calipari asked anyone to call anybody. That is pure conjecture on your part and other bloggers who don't know anything but rumors. Think about it... that would be stupid on Calipari's part to make such a low level move that had such a high level of consequence. A phone call would do little to influence a final decision, no matter who it came from, and it was sure to be found out and bring with it, at the very least, a lot of bad publicity... and at its worst, a sanction. Calipari would never risk the dynasty he is building for something so trivial. Gaddy isn't that valuable, nor is any other recruit. Especially when most of the top players in the country are considering your program.

If you are going to publish stuff, either get your facts right, or share your opinions as that and not as if they are facts.

Dean said...

One more thing... name me one coach who would have turned CJ down? Cal wasn't recruiting a player who graduated 3 years ago. CJ called Cal. No one knows what Xavier is going to do. This has as much potential to send him to Kansas as it does to Memphis. Why don't you wait until the rest of the package shows up before you acuse people of things. There may be no package. Completely irresponsible.

Rob Dauster said...

Did any of you guys even read until the end? Read the last paragraph. I actually don't think there is anything wrong with hiring a coach or father of a player, as long as he gets paid what anyone else in the position would get paid and as long as the position isn't actually a coaching position (i.e. doing some administrative stuff).

Anonymous said...

Rob Dauster said...
Did any of you guys even read until the end? Read the last paragraph. I actually don't think there is anything wrong with hiring a coach or father of a player, as long as he gets paid what anyone else in the position would get paid and as long as the position isn't actually a coaching position (i.e. doing some administrative stuff).

August 29, 2008 7:38 AM

Then why title the name of this particular blog entry "Coach Cal and his Shady Recruiting" if there is nothing wrong with what he is doing?

Anonymous said...

Rob Dauster said:

He also "allegedly" requested the CEO of FedEx to call the mother of recruit Abdul Gaddy, who happens to be a customer service rep for the company.

Alleged by whom? I've followed that story very closely and you're the first person to make that accusation. You know something the rest of the sports world doesn't?

Rob Dauster said...

@Sports Nuts - Come on. Let's be serious here. What if this was Bruce Pearl? You would be saying the exact opposite of what you're saying now.

@anon - what he is doing is actually ILLEGAL in the NCAA rule books. He is not allowed to do it. Just because I agree with it doesn't mean it is not shady. If I didn't agree with weed being illegal, but I still smoked it all the time, would that make me shady?

Rob Dauster said...

@Sports Nuts - And Cal also knew nothing about the $28,000 given to Marcus Camby either. You know, the money that wiped out the UMass Final Four run?

The Drew Crew said...

You're reaching on this one man.

Your post is as original as everything else I've read that is anti-memphis in the past 3 years.

Milt Wagner proved to be a great recruiter. That's why he stayed with Cal for so long, and that's why he has now moved on to a better gig.

Tyreke Evans is a machine. Why would you not want his trainer on your staff?

You call it shady, I call it smart.

But hey, I'd be bitter too if I had to deal with the Morris brothers while a recruiting competitor landed the Henry Brothers.

Bas-O-Matic said...

Rob Dauster said...
@Sports Nuts - And Cal also knew nothing about the $28,000 given to Marcus Camby either. You know, the money that wiped out the UMass Final Four run?

The money that an agent was giving Camby in the hopes of signing him when he turned pro? The money that the NCAA expressly cleared Calipari of having any involvement with?

If by "knew" you mean "had something to do with" then, no, I don't think that Calipari knew about it. If by "knew" you mean that Cal was specifically aware that money was given to Camby at the time, then, no, I don't think Calipari was aware that someone was giving Camby money at the time. If by knew you mean Calipari isn't dumb and realizes these things go on, then, maybe, on some level he "knew."

In regards to Bronzcek's call to Gaddy's mom, no one, and I mean no one, has alleged (or "alleged") that Bronzcek did so at the behest of Calipari. To think he did so is, frankly, pretty dumb. This is, as with the agent giving money to Camby, something from which Calipari had absolutely nothing to gain and quite a lot to lose.

What Bronzcek did was against the rules, it was stupid beyond belief, he probably thought he was being cute about it since Gaddy's mom technically works for him, and he should have known better. There is no reason, however, to think that Calipari had any idea what he was doing. In fact the whole athletic department seemed pretty taken aback when they learned what he did (through a news report, no less, Goodman didn't extend Memphis the courtesy of calling anyone for comment before he ran his story).

Rob Dauster said...

How many times is he going to get free-pass because he "didn't know what was happening".

ballen said...

If you had done your homework as any responsible journalist does, you would know that Bronzcek specifically stated that Coach Cal did NOT ask him to make the call, and that he DID make the call on his own. Why would you make the statement that Cal asked him to (which even Goodman never stated) unless your intention is to discredit him?

It's a shame that you are allowed to make inflammatory statements and unsubstantiated innuendos without suffering the consequences. Shady reporting!!!!