Coaching summit all about change
CHICAGO -- John Chaney showed up at a meeting during the Final Four to discuss the possibility of altering the distance of the 3-point arc and the size of the lane in college basketball. With New Orleans crawling with coaches, Chaney was shocked by what could only be viewed as a casual interest, at best, among his peers.
"There were about 15-20 coaches there," said the Hall of Fame Temple coach. "So they talked about it and discussed it and tried to push it. With 15 or 20 people?"
Chaney's frustration over the apathy by coaches will be one of the points he will raise during the open microphone session at the mandatory Division I head coaches' summit Wednesday at the O'Hare Hyatt. But Chaney is just getting started. He's got plenty to say, just like many others who want answers as to why they are being lumped with a few bad seeds who have sullied the image of college basketball the last six months. The actions of coaches at Baylor, Iowa State and investigations at Auburn, Missouri and Fairfield prompted this meeting on morals and ethics.
"Who is in charge of our image?" Chaney said. "It's the electronic media. Bad news sells. We can't change our image by going to a meeting in Chicago. You don't have to come to the meeting. I'll drop you an agenda.
"No one can change the morals or ethics of an individual in this country. I can't wait to get there. I asked who was in charge of our image at the Final Four in New Orleans and Myles Brand (NCAA President) and Jim Haney (National Association of Basketball Coaches executive director) couldn't answer it. I'm coming back to answer it."
Chaney is also fuming about what he calls the "extortion" of the coaches to attend the meeting or forfeit their two Final Four tickets.
"For us to be invited to Chicago because of what happened at Baylor? They're not inviting the football coaches or the women's coaches," Chaney said.
The afternoon meeting is scheduled to last three hours, and while it may have been prompted by a scandalous summer and will focus on ethics as much as any other issue raised by coaches, it won't become an arena for coaches to simply vent their frustrations. The NABC also isn't solely bringing in Brand and former Georgetown coach John Thompson to lecture its membership. Instead, the NABC wants feedback from those in attendance on key legislative issues not directly related to the off-court problems.
Wednesday is an opportunity for the coaching membership to look like it actually cares about more than just their individual program's success or failure.Jim Boeheim hopes Wednesday's meeting among his coaching peers is just the "beginning point" to taking action against apathy.
"We want this to be a beginning point," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "The fundamental reason for this meeting is that there is a perception that we're not doing anything. Well, we are. If we have a major meeting before practice then we are doing something. The more we get together, the more people will understand what's going on.
"You can't say 'I don't know,' as a head coach. We're going to come out of this with some action points."
Too often, coaches complain that they aren't notified of changes in rules or legislative changes until after they have been approved into the NCAA manual. The perception is that football coaches can get their agenda across to the NCAA leadership because they vote as one at their annual winter meetings. But the fractions within the men's basketball coaching community are known at the NCAA headquarters and within the management council and NCAA board of directors.
Boeheim said Wednesday is a chance to create a consensus from men's basketball coaches.
"The fact that Myles Brand is coming shows how important this is and that he wants to be involved," Boeheim said. "He's the first president that has ever reacted. We understand things are different today than they were 10 years ago. Coaches have to understand that you have to take responsibility for everything that goes on. When I go out, I never have a drink -- ever. I just don't. Coaches have to be more aware of everything because mistakes are going to happen."
Mistakes are one thing, but blatant cheating by coaches is another. And Minton said the definition of cheating would not only be addressed, but made clear to every coach in Chicago.
"But we can't cast a net over everyone because 10 guys are cheating," Chaney said. "There are 320-something schools."
And most of the 327 Division I programs will be represented. Among the coaches who won't be in town is Tom Crean, who will instead be in Costa Rica with his Marquette players on a tour scheduled long before the NABC meeting. Both Rick Pitino and Bob Knight also informed the NABC that they had previous commitments that would prevent their attending the meeting.
But no matter the reason, every coach who isn't in Chicago will have to appeal to the NABC to get their 2004 Final Four tickets. But, if the reason a coach is showing up in Chicago is to make sure he has those two coveted seats at the Alamodome in San Antonio, well, then the coaches won't solve much of anything.
Outside of the discussions on ethics, cheating and public perception of the coaching fraternity, there will likely be a push by coaches for radical change in the 5/8 scholarship limit rule, which limits a school to five scholarship newcomers in a given recruiting class and no more than eight over the course of two years. Before being fired at Baylor, Dave Bliss cited this 5/8 limitation as the impetus for him paying the tuition of the late Patrick Dennehy and then-freshmen Corey Herring, after he ran out of scholarships for the 2002-03 season.
Boeheim said another issue to be discussed in Chicago is the coaches' desire to watch their players play during the offseason, a rule that tends to be broken by at least one coach on a staff throughout the year -- sometimes purposely, and other times by accident, if a coach should walk by a gym.
"Why can't you watch your kids play in the fall?" said Reggie Minton, the associate director of the NABC and a former coach at Air Force. "Give me a good reason what the genesis of this rule was. Why can't we sit up in the stands and watch our kids play?"
Boeheim avoids walking by the Syracuse gym, but agrees with Minton that there is no advantage to watching his players play pickup basketball. Boeheim is also in favor of changing a rule that states coaches must talk to a senior in high school if they're on campus visiting a junior.
"This is immoral," Boeheim said. "You have no interest in the senior, and to make contact all you have to do is ask how the kid's game is, and he answers you. Why make us do that?"
Minton called that rule a sham. A "bad, bad rule, that needs to be changed."
Change, whether it be in an NCAA coaching manual or in the public's eye, will be the optimum word Wednesday.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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