You can say this for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim: he never sugarcoats his opinions, no matter how antiqued or controversial they might be. In the battle for better rights for students-athletes, Boeheim just may be the last standing nonconvert. If you dare to ask him about players leaving school early to enter the NBA Draft, you better be prepared for the answer you're surely going to get.
Boeheim has been so outspoken against the concept of college kids making money either in school or out of it that his comments on a Syracuse.com podcast on Monday hardly register as a surprise. Remember: we're talking about the coach who called the idea of paying college athletes "really the most idiotic suggestion of all time."
The targets of Boeheim's latest bluster are two of his former players, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. Ennis left Boeheim and Syracuse after one tremendous season as a freshman; Grant stayed two years but eventually opted for the draft after taking time to consider returning to school. Asked about how his two former players are preparing for the NBA, Boeheim essentially said he's cut off contact with them.
You know, I don't talk to players anymore. They make up their mind and they go. You know, it's really, there, it used to be you wanted to go in the top six, eight picks. Now, players just wanna go. First-round pick.
The disappointing part is, NBA teams really don't even want the draft picks after the first 15 (picks). They would rather trade them. Give 'em away, whatever. Because they don't want that guy, they've got too many guys and don't want to give that guy guaranteed money. So, you'll find a lot of NBA teams trade those picks.
There's a lot more where this came from. Boeheim is already on record saying Ennis should have spent another year in school. He didn't state it in such flat terms this time around, but he didn't exactly offer a glowing endorsement of his players, either.
Michael Carter-Williams got a humongous opportunity (with the Philadelphia 76ers) because Philadelphia traded their point guard. He got to play. That is unusual. Most of those teams, the point guards are pretty set. You are looking at coming in and being a back up. It's a question of how much will I get to play. Am I going to get better that way? Is that going to be good for me? And there is no way to know the answer to that.
I think if Michael Carter-Williams had gone to a little bit better of a team, he might have been playing in the D-League. Instead, he's the rookie of the year. Where you go, where you come out in the draft is everything. You just don't know where that is going to be.
He has tremendous upside. That's important. Unfortunately, every NBA coach that I know, they don't care about the future. They have to win next year. Except for Gregg Popovich. Every other NBA coach has to win next year. So he's looking for someone who can come in and help him next year. Not in two years or three years. So they are looking for guys who are ready to play.
They have to first determine what position are they drafting Jerami Grant for? That's the first question. Does he have the skill set to play the three? Is he big enough to play the four? Strong enough?
Our wonderful Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician has noted while most NBA people want to make Boeheim a straw man, he's gone to bat for players before, albeit usually when it's still in his best interest.
Boeheim would like to see early entry players have until June 1 to pull out of the draft. It's a nice idea that would benefit some who rush to the NBA without fully considering their pro stock, but Boeheim says it with more than a hint of I-told-you-so in his voice. Of course he wants players to have more time to decide on their futures, as long as some might come crawling back.
The problem with all of this is Boeheim's complete disregard for the financial incentive at stake. He never mentions the money players can make with a guaranteed NBA contract is more than most folks make in a lifetime. He never considers how players who don't last in the NBA can still make very good money in Europe or elsewhere. The fact is, Boeheim doesn't do his job for free. He makes over $1.8 million per season, which places him in the top 25 of highest-earning coaches in the country. It's the highest salary of anyone at Syracuse.
Boeheim mentioned the eight-year NBA career of Hakim Warrick on the podcast as an example of how staying in school can help a player. He brought up Donte Greene as an example of a Syracuse player who left after his freshman year and flamed out in the NBA. Not everything is as black and white as Boeheim wants to make it seem, though. Greene was playing under a different set of circumstances. He was fighting to support the rest of his family after his mother died when he was 13 years old.
Greene got a guaranteed contract when he was taken with the No. 28 pick in the 2008 draft. He's out of the league now, but he's still playing professionally in China at age 26.
Boeheim seems to think that staying in school is always better for a player if he's not going to be selected in the top seven of the draft. That type of opinion blinds a person to a lot of real world problems like the ones Greene experienced. It also stands on incredibly shaky ground. Look no further than North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo for an example of a player who hurt his stock by returning to school. McAdoo was projected as a possible lottery pick after his freshman year, but decided to return to school. He left after his junior season and now is unlikely to be a first-round pick in the 2014 draft. Oregon forward Mike Moser qualifies as an example of this, too. It's not exactly a rare occurrence.
On the suggestion that C.J. Fair, who will enter the draft after staying all four years at Syracuse, hurt his stock by staying in school so long, Boeheim said: "That's all complete bull (expletive). That's the most bull (expletive) thing I have ever heard when people say that."
Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician pointed out this is not the first time the coach has used hyperbole to express his opinions.
It stands in direct opposition to how a coach like Kentucky's John Calipari operates, a man who often urges his players to go pro so his next wave of top freshmen can get the playing time they need. It's part of the reason young basketball players seem to trust him so much.
So far, these comments haven't hurt Syracuse's ability to recruit. It'll welcome in one five-star player in the class of 2015 in shooting guard Malachi Richardson, and three four-star recruits. But you can bet that if Richardson has a good season and is projected to go in the first round of the 2016 draft, Boeheim will start all of this again. At a certain point, players are going to start to wonder just how much support they really have.