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NBA/NCAA MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 7, 2008
ANDREW MONACO: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Andrew Monaco welcome to our distinguished guests, members of the media. Thank you all for coming to this special announcement. I'd also like to welcome all of those who are joining us live around the globe on ncaa.com and nba.com and NBA TV.
We are here in San Antonio, the site of this year's NCAA Men's Final Four to announce a very special new initiative between the NCAA, the NBA and supporters of the game from around the country. It is my great pleasure to introduce the dignitaries on stage who represent the various organizations which are helping to make this partnership possible.
Starting from my left in the back row. The executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, Bob Kanaby. The Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Jim Haney. The Director of Global Basketball Sports Marketing for Nike, George Raveling. The President of USA Basketball, Val Ackerman. The Senior Vice President For Basketball and Business Strategies for the NCAA, Greg Shaheen. The Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver. The Director of Global Basketball Sports Marketing for adidas, Jim Gatto. The head coach of the DePaul University women's basketball team and the former President of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, Doug Bruno. The Chairman of Boys Basketball For the AAU, Boo Williams. And the President and CEO of the AAU, Bobby Dodd.
In the front row, starting on my left, the head coach of the Georgia Tech men's basketball team, and President of the Black Coaches and Administrators, Paul Hewitt. NCAA president, Myles Brand. And NBA commissioner, David Stern.
Now, it is my pleasure to turn it over to Dr. Brand.
DR. MYLES BRAND: Thank you all for coming today. We appreciate it. We have, as you see, assembled the main stakeholders in basketball in this country, and this on the day of the men's Final Four championship game, and the eve of the women's championship game. I want to thank the participants behind me and around the room, the NBA, the USA Basketball High School Federation, AU, Nike, adidas, Reebok, the NABC, Men's Basketball Coaches, WBCA, Women's Basketball Coaches, and many others who have participated in our ability to get to this point today.
Why you might ask should we shine this light on this group on this day when college basketball has the floor? And the reason is this: There's news of a very significant new initiative that will have enormous impact on the game, and most especially on the young people who will play it.
One might think that the big news here is the NCAA and the NBA are working together and talking, looking at a whole range of issues for the future of the game. And there's some truth to that claim. But that's not the main point today. The main point today is that we're here to announce an unprecedented level of cooperation in the future of the game and the future of those who play the game.
There are clearly differences of mission between all the organizations here, but we also see great value in working together, and there is a clear confluence of interest.
Let me give you a very brief history of how we got to where we are. This is a description of the journey on which we are.
It started over two years ago in Chicago when we all came together, with some other important persons, as well, legends of the game, other coaches. Then we met again about a year later in Indianapolis. At that point we asked the question: What is the single biggest challenge that faces the game of basketball in this country and, indeed, worldwide, but most especially in this country? What is the biggest single challenge? And there was a resounding answer to that. The answer is: precollegiate basketball, for elite players, but also for a larger group of boys and girls.
Youth basketball has problems. You've all seen the good, the bad, the ugly, and I don't need to rehearse those issues with you. We understand, and the NCAA understands in particular, you can't solve these problems through regulation alone or even as a major element. The NCAA, in fact, tried to do that over a decade ago by regulating the interaction, the access that our coaches had to the young men. That didn't work. Maybe it exacerbated the problem. We won't go back to that approach. Indeed, we need to have our coaches in a position to be more accessible to the young men and women and their families and advisors.
The answers to the problems, we strongly believe as a group, must be solved in the marketplace through a new corporate joint effort. We are in the process of putting that together. We are not announcing the conclusion of the journey and the goal being met. We are announcing that we've taken some initial steps and we are definitely on the road. It will be a long journey and the progress will require patience. We must have and keep realistic expectations. It has taken us a long time to get into the situation we are with youth basketball and it will not be solved overnight. But you're not going to solve the problem unless all the key persons in this room work together, and we are doing that.
What will we do? We'll focus on the youth basketball community through various communication channels. We'll work to improve coaching and officiating. In the end, it's all about the youth in America, and America's most popular game. It's their success, their success in developing basketball skills, teamwork, but it's also their personal and educational development and success that we all care about and care about deeply.
The NCAA is proud to be part of this, and proud in particular to work with these wonderful partners.
Now I'll turn it over to Coach Hewitt.
PAUL HEWITT: Thank you, Dr. Brand. It's great to be here today. As somebody who started out as a grass-roots coach back in Westbury, Long Island, through high school, now as a college coach, it's great to be a part of something that's going to be so important to the future of the game.
Obviously the most significant part of this announcement, as Dr. Brand mentioned, is the collaboration of all the people here, the High School Association, the AAU, obviously the NBA, the NCAA, and the sneaker companies. I think we have a tremendous opportunity here to really impact in a positive way the coaching on the grass-roots level.
Today in the grassroots arena, the value of team play, winning and losing, overall skill development, is generally at a very low level, generally not much value placed on any of these objectives.
We at the NCAA, again along with the people you see up here, we want to work to improve the level of coaching. I think there are many coaches out there that are interested in lending a hand, doing clinics, working in the communities to improve the coaching these young people receive prior to arriving on campuses, if they arrive to the campuses at all, as scholarship athletes.
I think college coaches would be a tremendous resource, as well as student-athletes, our current student-athletes would serve as great mentors to prospective student-athletes as they look forward to what this game of college basketball, this game of basketball, can mean for their futures.
Our youth programs and our college basketball programs are responsible for teaching these young people about the game, and more importantly respecting the game.
It is critical that all stakeholders involved teach our kids that playing this game, it's more important to be part of a team, and the ultimate goal is to win and be successful. I certainly look forward to see where this initiative ends up. Again, I'm honored to be a part of this panel, and more than anything I think we have a great opportunity here to really push the focus and direction towards education, which is what this game should be about, as opposed to some of the things we see currently today.
With that I'll turn it over to David Stern.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Thank you.
At the NBA, sort of our Mission Statement can be roughly divided into two parts. First it's to grow this spectacular sport. The game is our passion. We do that through the NBA, through the WNBA, through the NBA Development League, and generally promote our sport on a global basis.
Number two, we believe that the celebrity of our game, our players, our teams, requires us, obligates us, to be leaders in social responsibility.
You've probably heard about that through our NBA Cares, but our players very much participate across a wide variety of initiatives on a global scale.
So for us, there's nothing that brings these two things together quite like improving the state of youth basketball. And I tell you that our Players Association currently has initiatives in this area. Our NBA Coaches Association and everybody is going to be interested in participating here and lending our talents and our resources to achieving the results of this effort.
I'll echo Myles, but it has a little different meaning representing the pros. I'm honored to be here and delighted to be cooperating with our good friends at USA Basketball, AAU, the various coaches associations, the National Federation of State High School Associations, and of course the athletic shoe and apparel companies, Nike and adidas.
To me, it's pretty exciting. I've been involved in this sport more or less for the last 40 years, and this is an area that has eluded the collaboration that it sometimes gets in a very positive way in other sports. So I'm thankful to those who have participated along the way to bring us all together, especially for the leadership of Myles Brand.
Thank you very much.
ANDREW MONACO: Commissioner Stern, thank you very much. Thanks to all our participants. We will now open the floor for questions for our main panelists.
With that, I will turn it over to Bob Williams.
BOB WILLIAMS: At this time, we'll open it up for questions, please.
Q. Commissioner Stern, ultimately what do you think will be the upshot of this initiative? What will be the end product?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: The end product will be we are going to work to develop both the on-the-court and off-the-court skills of young players, whether they ultimately make it into the NBA or they don't. And we're going to use the values of the game to improve people's understanding of things like teamwork, discipline, and hard work all through the values of basketball.
Q. Mr. Brand and Commissioner Stern, Billy Hunter is not here. Would you have liked for him to be here? Is he enthusiastic about this? Was he brought into the loop on this at all?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Yes, he has been brought in. He's been briefed. He wasn't able to make it today. But the Players Association has been briefed on this and is supportive of it.
Q. Are you announcing anything tangible here today? Are you saying, Dr. Brand, that college coaches are going to be involved with summer ball again, which seemed to be an implication I was getting? Or are you just announcing that we're all a bunch of good guys here?
DR. MYLES BRAND: We're starting a new corporation, have legal corporate authority, independent of the NBA, NCAA, the other organizations, though the board will be made up of representatives.
We expect to be active in the marketplace, and we're developing -- in the process of developing communication tools, websites and so on, in order to work in the field of youth basketball, working directly with the National High School Federation to deal with issues of instruction to coaching and officials.
In terms of our NCAA coaches' access to players, we have to go through, I'm sure you understand, a legislative process, at the NCAA. We are not announcing that today. We are announcing a formation of a new marketplace-based approach to deal with youth basketball on a national basis, jointly NCAA, NBA, as well as some of the other partners around the table. It is a concrete substantial program with a business plan that took us two years to develop.
Q. Does it have a name?
DR. MYLES BRAND: It will have a name. We are in the process of trying to appropriately brand it. We do not have any initial intentions to work in some basketball, but we don't foreclose that sometime in the future.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I think it's a fair question. The important thing here is to sort of move forward, and the idea of occupying some digital space to be able to communicate messages to kids and their parents about the variety of things that are available to them, together with what changes, from my perspective, I think will come through the NCAA, but it takes a certain time and a certain process. And together with what our coaches and our officials are going to be prepared to do to participate, as well, to grow the sport and improve it at that level.
You're right. Nothing wrong with announcing that we're all good guys. I accept that, too. And thank you for that. I appreciate that. But we're recognizing that those of us, all of us up here that can operate independently in our narrow spheres, but this is a step, you know, whether it's USA Basketball dealing with the elite players, the real AAU dealing with summer ball, the coaches that get changed rules, hopefully, the athletic shoe and apparel companies even being here with us and supporting us, I think it goes far beyond announcing that we're good guys, although it might be as specific as it will ultimately be. It's a huge step along a very important process for our game because it happens to be the most played sport by boys and girls, and yet there's been a certain deficiency, maybe even us not taking enough responsibility. But here we are announcing that we are.
Q. Dr. Brand, could you talk about the process of credentialing coaches, how that will play out besides obviously probably criminal background checks? Also, if you do credential coaches, isn't there then some liability if something goes wrong that you're taking a danger in doing that?
DR. MYLES BRAND: I'm not sure "credentialing" is the right term. We are at the beginning of that process. I know that the National High School Federation already has in place an educational opportunity nationwide for coaches through their own website and print material. We're going to build on that rather than try and replace it.
One of the key reasons to have everyone involved who has these common interests about those youth who participate in basketball, is to take advantage of the strengths and successes others have had and bring them together. The goal is not to invent this from scratch, but rather to take advantage of the good work and excellent people that are already doing it, but now do it in a cooperative way.
Let me build on something that David said that I thought was very important, namely, there's no NGB for basketball. It's the most popular sport in terms of participants in this country for youth, boys and girls. And yet, unlike swimming, track, there's no NGB, no non-governmental body, to oversee it. That has created an uncoordinated and sometimes dysfunctional environment.
So our objective is not to become a government agency, obviously, but rather to, through the marketplace, develop what would play the role of a national organizing body. And that is a very large project. That's why I said during my remarks, we're going to have to be patient as we grow this and evolve it. We're also going to have to understand that the expectations need to be kept. We did not turn a switch and everything is fixed. That did not happen. But we are on our journey in a way that we weren't before. And I believe personally this is quite remarkable.
I want to return the compliment to David. I have incredibly enjoyed working with him on these topics and with the NBA as a whole. The opportunity to see the NCAA and the NBA tackle, along with our other partners, the most pressing problems in youth basketball I think is a grand and special one.
PAUL HEWITT: If I can add to what Dr. Brand has said. From a coaching perspective, I think this gives us an opportunity to really educate parents and young people out there on a number of issues, whether it's how many games they should be playing when they're involved in non-scholastic basketball, how to deal with injuries. Quite often kids are told, You have to push through the injury because this coach is here to see you. We don't have that type of communication with them sometimes to let them know it's okay, you don't have to push through an injury, take care of yourself.
Just dispelling a lot of the myths about how you get a scholarship. What do you have to do to become eligible initially? I think if that type of information is out there, I know from a coaching perspective, it would mean an awful lot for us to see a kid instead of going to a tournament maybe in the middle of the spring when they should be preparing for final exams, closing out the school year strong, they've been told they have to go out and impress the college coach. That's not what we want. That's never what we wanted.
I think putting everything together, it's going to serve the parents and the young men and women that are playing this game I think in an invaluable way. Again, from a coaching perspective, that's how I would see it.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I would just add that in terms of the structure, from the NBA's perspective, there has been an effective NGB called USA Basketball, but it has been directed to issues with which it deals that have not addressed these issues. It tends more to deal with elite teams for national and international competitions. Hopefully that will yield for it a gold medal in the coming games in Beijing for both the men's and women's teams.
But it has not historically, by its membership, including the NCAA, the NBA, many others in this room, been addressed to this part of the spectrum. I think what we're doing here is trying to take everybody and allocate roles from a bottom-up perspective as to how this will be done more effectively in the future.
Q. Coach Hewitt, kind of expanding on your remarks about maybe less competition in spring when someone should be preparing to end the school year on a strong note. You're on the frontlines here when you're out recruiting in the spring and summer. How uncoordinated and dysfunctional has grass-roots basketball become? How would a coach such as yourself try to fix that in terms of amount of competition, travel?
PAUL HEWITT: I think it just lacks direction. The vast majority of people out there involved in youth basketball are trying to do something positive by getting kids exposure.
When I started in this business in 1989, working for Coach Raveling at USC as a graduate assistant, to now how many kids I've come across who have the opportunity to go to college, maybe the first person in their families to go to college. I think it's a matter of getting some direction, everybody on the same page, and make sure information is being passed around.
Again, I can't emphasize enough educating parents and players, because often you hear of kids walking off the court, if you're in earshot, you hear them talk about, I played against this 10th ranked player, I'm better than him. If he can go to the draft...
It leads you into a bunch of stuff that can lead you into bad directions, bad decisions. I've been in the business, I can't believe it, going on 20 years. You see those kids 10 years down the road, 15 years down the road. They say, Boy, if I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently. I can't tell you how many players I've had come up to me and say, I made a bad decision because I didn't know.
Exactly what we end up doing with it, I'm not sure. But I can tell you, this is the most profound thing that has happened since I've been in the game. Everybody's at the table figuring out how we can make sure kids can have all the information to make a right decision. You can't tell them what to do, but you certainly can provide information. If somebody makes a bad decision after that, then that's just what happens.
Again, I can't tell you, since '89 when I started working for Coach Raveling, till now, how many kids I've come across who I've seen on the trail, AAU tournaments in Vegas, Orlando, they come up, 28 years old, 30 years old, they say, If I knew then what I know now, I'd be in a much better place. From a coaching perspective, that's what I hope comes of this.
Q. Mr. Brand, the average fan probably doesn't understand what all the hubbub is about summer basketball. Most of us understand it's best described maybe as an underground almost black market situation. You guys are talking about a marketplace. Does this boil down to bringing structure, bringing it out in the open more than anything?
DR. MYLES BRAND: I think it's to provide a set of opportunities, many of which exist but are disorganized right now, to the youth environment. Coach Hewitt talked about how many games kids play. When you get young people, I mean really young, early teenagers, playing five games a day, those are use injuries, and there's no skill development. Certainly there's no education component to it. They're just playing a lot of games.
We've got to make sure that those environments, to the best of our ability, are respectful of the kids and their families. Health reasons. Do we have medical professionals available if something goes wrong, and it often does? Do we have coaches who are helping to instruct the young people? Do we have a surrounding context in which their life skills, in addition to their basketball skills, evolve and develop so they can take advantage of high school and college education?
Not everyone has the great opportunity to go to the NBA. Not everyone even has a chance to play in Division I basketball. What happens to those young people? Do they understand that there really is an opportunity to go to college, to get a high school education, to be more successful in life while enjoying and getting better at the game? Those are the sorts of issues we want to work on.
We will never totally dominate the marketplace. It will never be the case that it will be perfect out there. But we think we can make it far better than it is.
Q. Commissioner Stern, do you feel that young players coming into the NBA right now are lacking in their development, whether on the court or off the court? Is getting involved in this and getting these players in this structure at an earlier age, will that potentially address maybe some of those issues?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, by the mere fact they're in the NBA, I think that talks about the high level of their development and their basketball skills. And I think that we've seen some progress and personal development by having the entry level be 19 years of age so that those elite players have yet an additional year to develop on and off the court.
But I do think that if we come up with a program that allows identified elite players ultimately to receive additional coaching, both for life skills and basketball skills, to allow them to take advantage of their high school experience, and ultimately their college experience, that will do a lot for those people, those of whom will -- most of whom probably won't make the NBA, many who will, and will continue to make our game stronger.
So I see it as a real opportunity to help grow elite athletes and at the same time growing those young basketball players who participate in our game who have no ideas about playing in the NBA, but using basketball to improve their life skills as well.
BOB WILLIAMS: Thank you very much for participating. I'll turn it back over to Andrew.
ANDREW MONACO: We'd like to thank you all for coming to today's announcement. All of our participants will stay around and be available for one-on-one interviews. Following will be a brief photo opportunity. Thank you all again.
End of FastScripts