Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

An Assault on Propriety

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The Washington Post recently ran a series of three articles in the sports section that examine possible reasons why the University of Maryland men’s basketball team has struggled more in the six years after it won the national championship (in 2002) than any other champion in the past 18 years. The focal point of the series is coach Gary Williams.

The second article in the series describes “independent travel teams that are sponsored by major shoe companies”.  According to the article, athletes ranging in age from 8 to 17 years old participate in these leagues.  This second article suggests that Williams does not reach out to the summer league teams, and their “coaches”, in the manner necessary to land the premier players.

In the passages that follow, “AAU” stands for Amateur Athletic Union. The AAU used to sponsor summer leagues years ago, and for this reason, summer leagues today are still referred to as “AAU”. However, the use of “AAU”, as acknowledged in the Post articles, is a bit of a misnomer. The summer league teams of today “face no oversight from any national governing body and are free to behave almost any way they see fit”.

According to the Post

For years, college coaches have hired AAU coaches as assistants in attempts to attract players from that AAU program. Plus, AAU coaches have been paid to speak at camps affiliated with the college coaches. But in recent years, a few dozen elite AAU coaches have engaged in a variety of more creative practices to make money in exchange for access to their players, according to several prominent college and AAU coaches across the country.

And

Some summer league coaches also charge college coaches — sometimes hundreds of dollars — for copies of “scouting reports” that are often little more than lists of players’ names. What’s more, one elite AAU coach has suggested that he will create a 1-900 telephone number so he can make money when college coaches call him about recruits.

According to the article, the most prominent local summer league team is the D.C. Assault. It is interesting that children as young as 8 years old are members of D.C. Assault, while, in 1997, Washington’s NBA team changed its name from the Bullets to the Wizards because owner Abe Pollin felt that the name Bullets had acquired violent overtones.

When asked to characterize his relationship with D.C. Assault, [University of Maryland coach Gary] Williams said: “Whatever. We like to get really good players, without a doubt. I would like to get players from D.C. Assault. . . . D.C. Assault is a nationally known program. People from all over the country don’t go to high school, they go to D.C. Assault to recruit players.”

It appears Williams could have established a recruiting pipeline to D.C. Assault in the spring of 2005. Williams had a coaching opening, and a former player and coach for D.C. Assault, Dalonte Hill, then an assistant at Charlotte, was looking for a new job.

Hill maintained a strong relationship with Malone and D.C. Assault’s players, most notably Michael Beasley, a top-rated high school sophomore whom Hill had known for years.

Hill was very interested in Maryland’s opening, and a former associate talked to Williams about the possibility. But Williams hired Michael Adams, who had played under him at Boston College. Hill was never interviewed; Williams said he could not afford him.

A year later, Hill was hired at Kansas State, reportedly for $420,000 a year, to work under Coach Bob Huggins, who acknowledged later that he knew Beasley would follow Hill. Beasley signed with Kansas State, led the nation in rebounding and was third in scoring, and was picked second overall in the 2008 NBA draft.

Asked whether Beasley would have followed him to Maryland, Hill said: “There was a great chance. I was involved with a lot of kids at the time and I know they had a lot of interest in Maryland. I just don’t understand why they didn’t go. . . . It astonishes me.”

Maybe I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but these summer leagues seem to be a bit shady. I don’t blame Gary Williams at all for refusing to play this game. I hope the Washington Post will follow up this series, focused as it is on Gary Williams and Maryland, with an expose of the summer leagues.

By the way, Hill got a nice salary bump at Kansas State. According to the “king of the D.C. Assault empire” Curtis Malone

Hill was making only $60,000 in Charlotte at the time he was interested in Maryland and suggested it would not have taken nearly a half-million dollars to hire him.

You mean it costs less to live in suburban Washington DC than in Manhattan, Kansas? Riiiiight.

According to the K-State biography of Dalonte Hill

Hill has also played a major role in helping Kansas State land some of the country’s best recruiting classes, including the nation’s top-rated class by Scout.com and Rivals.com in 2006, which included No. 1 recruit Michael Beasley and No. 6 recruit Bill Walker.

No mention on the website of Hill’s prior relationship with Beasley through D.C. Assault. An editorial oversight, I suppose. This article on Rivals.com states

Michael Beasley made Kansas State basketball relevant for the first time in more than a decade last season, and his presence put a few extra dollars in the pocket of the man responsible for luring him to Manhattan, Kan.

That would be Wildcats assistant Dalonte Hill, Beasley’s former AAU coach in the Washington, D.C., area. Hill, entering his sixth season as a college assistant, will make more money for the 2008-09 season than the entire three-man staffs at Ohio State, Washington State and Wisconsin and only $5,000 less than the staff at Texas, a survey done by Rivals.com shows.

K-State released Hill’s contract in May. The school paid him $400,000 in 2007-08, and it will pay him $420,000 a year – $150,000 in base salary and $270,000 in “additional compensation,” defined as “television, radio, internet, promotional and other services” – for the next four years. He is entering his third year at K-State.

Who knows? In a few years, Hill might be paid more than the executives of companies that receive TARP bailouts.