Thursday, June 28, 2007

NBA draft could have ACC tilt

ACC fans still smarting from the conference's disappointing NCAA tournament can watch tonight's NBA draft for a shred of vindication.

Twelve years ago, the ACC set a record when eight players from its schools were drafted in the first round. The conference could approach that record again today.

North Carolina's Brandan Wright, Florida State's Al Thornton, Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young, and Duke's Josh McRoberts give the ACC five fairly certain first-round picks.

Boston College's Jared Dudley and Sean Williams have a shot at late first-round selections, though Williams (dismissed from the team during the season) hardly left the school on good terms. North Carolina's Reyshawn Terry, considered a longshot for a first-round selection, could give the ACC eight first-round picks.

Even in the unlikely event that happens, though, the 2007 draft class won't equal the 1995 class. Boston College, which would account for two 2007 picks, wasn't in the conference in 1995.

Wright is considered the only possible top-five pick in today's draft. The 2007 draft had three - Joe Smith (1), Jerry Stackhouse (3) and Rasheed Wallace (4).

- Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Age limit's good for NBA, colleges

Less than a week ago, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski posed an interesting question. What if Greg Oden and Kevin Durant hadn't played one year of college basketball?

"I think it would hurt the NBA more than it would hurt college," Krzyzewski said.

No doubt college basketball is better off for having had Oden and Durant even if it was just for one season, thanks to an NBA age limit that prevented them from going to the NBA immediately after high school.

Oden was a first-team All-American and led Ohio State to the NCAA title game. Durant was the consensus national player of the year for Texas.
But Krzyzewski's point is that one year in college dramatically increased the NBA marketability of Oden and Durant as Thursday's draft approaches.

If Oden had played against pros last season with his surgically repaired wrist, he might have faded into obscurity by midseason. Instead, he has signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike and Topps.

Durant wouldn't have scored nearly as easily against Kevin Garnett as he did against Big 12 defenders last season, and now also is expected to cash in with big endorsement contracts.

In Portland and Seattle, which have the draft's first two picks, respectively, the arrivals of Oden and Durant are expected to generate huge interest in the NBA franchises.

Krzyzewski's concern with the NBA age limit in place is that colleges stay true to their mission and don't become merely a component of the pro basketball public relations machine.

"We've got to be careful about college, that it doesn't become Oden against Durant," Krzyzewski said. "It's Ohio State against Texas. If we lose that, then we lose our share of how you look at basketball. That's the thing that makes college basketball.

"It will never be a coach or a player. It will be Duke against North Carolina, UCLA against Southern Cal. And that's one of the things we have to protect. And when we protect that, we protect the inherent mission of the school, which is to educate." - Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Donovan is doing the right thing

Staying at Florida is the right decision for Billy Donovan.
He sure went about it in the wrong way, accepting a five-year, $27.5 million contract to coach the Orlando Magic that he now reportedly is about to escape.

But the track record of college head coaches who accept NBA jobs indicates that he was making a mistake leaving Gainesville. His mentor, Rick Pitino, was 102-146 with the Boston Celtics.

John Calipari, Tim Floyd and Jerry Tarkanian have won prodigiously in college but flopped in the NBA. Sure, Donovan could have taken over the Magic and cashed big paychecks for a few years even if he couldn’t take Dwight Howard & Co. deep into the playoffs.

After wearing out his welcome in Orlando, he could have spent a year or two as a TV analyst and then become a hot commodity for another big-time college job. In football, Butch Davis followed that same career path, if you substitute Cleveland for Orlando, to become coach at North Carolina, a school with a national name and good facilities.

But Davis’ old Miami Hurricanes job also opened up after last season, and it appears Davis was never a factor. It’s not easy to go home again, and that’s why Donovan is wise to stay at Florida if he’s happy there.

By winning back-to-back NCAA titles, Donovan has established Florida as an SEC power to rival Kentucky, whose job he declined to pursue in April. The Gators might struggle in 2007-08 because they lost all five NCAA champion starters, but their recent success gets them in the door with a lot of top prospects on the recruiting trail.

Donovan’s waffling will cause him embarrassment and probably will infuriate the Magic. But if Orlando gets a proven NBA coach (reports mention Stan Van Gundy), it will be better off.

As for Donovan, Bobby Cremins and Gregg Marshall are thriving after creating similar fiascos by accepting jobs they later turned down.
Donovan will be OK, too. – Ken Tysiac