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March 29, 2007

Jim Boeheim

Jim Haney

Oscar Robertson

Tubby Smith


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We're here for the National Association of Basketball Coaches state of the game press conference. We will have an NABC foundation to follow up to talk about the national collegiate basketball Hall of Fame.
With us today, on the far left, Oscar Robertson, Coach Willis Wilson of Rice University, Tubby Smith of the University of Minnesota, Coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse University, and the executive director of the NABC Jim Haney. Mr. Haney will start with some comments.
JIM HANEY: Thank you. It's our pleasure to be back. 365 days seems to go so fast any more. We're delighted to be in Atlanta talking about the state of the game. The game continues to grow. The excitement continues to mount. Of course, we're thrilled to be here at the Final Four in Atlanta where we've been before. They always do such a good job.
As relates to issues before the NABC, I think we're concerned about the basketball rules. There's always discussion about whether the three-point line should be lengthened or not. There's really no strong sense within our group that it has to be changed, or for that matter that the lane has to be widened. I know there's discussion going on about whether that should happen.
As it relates to legislation, again, there's not any one particular piece of legislation that stands out this year as really a significant issue. Down the road I think there's concern amongst our coaches about access to our student-athletes during the summer. That ties quite significantly for our Division I head coaches relative to academics and their student-athletes having access to summer school, work toward their degrees. We will be looking at that issue of access.
I think the other area that is of concern for not every one of our head coaches in Division I, but certainly those who have prospects for the NBA or professional ranks is what happens in the spring where agents approach student-athletes who at least are considering or have decided to go into the pros, asking them or encouraging them to leave campus, to walk away from fulfilling their academic responsibilities that particular term or semester, sort of the negative impact that has on graduation rates and APR.
As an overview, I think those are some of the issues that are before us as we gather here for our convention. With that having been said, we'll open it up to questions you would have of our guests.
As Rick mentioned, the NABC foundation as a foundation launched a National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Oscar was one of the founding class members inducted into that Hall of Fame this past November. The second half of our hour we'll be spending time talking about that and the college basketball experience in Kansas City.

Q. Where do your leagues stand on the number of conference games planned for the future? Any expansion possible? Do you have an opinion on that, as to whether there should be an expansion to the number of conference games?
JIM BOEHEIM: In the Big East I think we're planning right now to expand to 18 games in the conference next year from everything that's been talked about.

Q. Good, bad or indifferent?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, it enables everybody in the league to play each other once at least. I think that's a good thing. There will be three repeat games under that plan. I think it's a better balance.
TUBBY SMITH: I'm new to the Big-10, but I know there's talk of expansion to 18. I think it's going to happen. It's a matter of -- I don't know the formula of how it will be implemented, but I'm sure I'll find out soon.

Q. Do you have an opinion on it?
TUBBY SMITH: I think it's good. I think everyone has a chance to play everyone else, 11 teams in the Big-10, so I think it will be beneficial.
WILLIS WILSON: Conference USA has been 14 - a year ago we played 14 league games. This year we moved it to 16. We're going to see how that number works for the league. You tend to get a little bit fickle or viewed as fickle when you can't find something and stick with it for a little bit. We're at a point right now where we're going to look at the 16-game format for the next year or two.

Q. In your capacity with the NABC, do you feel any obligation on this issue as it pertains to the drop-down effect? If there are more conference games you play, there are fewer so-called guarantee games in which you play smaller institutions whose budgets depend on the ability to play those games?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, it really wouldn't affect probably our scheduling that much because they've added -- they've added two games if you're not in the tournament. By adding two more conference games, if you didn't play in a tournament, wouldn't matter at all.
Adding the two conference games means you probably wouldn't play bigger games. Really wouldn't probably change the number of games against, as you would say, mid-major teams or smaller schools.

Q. There's been a lot of talk this season about the NBA's age minimum requirements. Coach Bob Knight said earlier this year he thinks it's one of the worst things that happened to basketball. Myles Brand said before that he feels like it could have a positive effect on hundreds if not thousands of high school kids who might come in more prepared. How do you feel about the rule?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, I don't like to disagree with Coach Knight, and I don't in most situations. I think he's normally right. This time I don't think he's got it right. We're talking about six or eight kids out of three thousand college players. I think we all would have rather had a two-year period where kids would come in.
I think one year is better than no years because I think some of those six or eight kids will come in and they'll find that they're not really ready, that they need more time in college. So it will benefit them, it will benefit the college programs, and it will benefit the NBA because they won't be in the NBA with no place to go.
I think the one or two guys, three guys, that may come in and go out after their freshman year, I think they'll benefit from being in college. I think the NBA will benefit from it. I think the colleges that they're at will benefit from it.
I think it's a win situation for everybody. The academic part, a lot of people leave early, leave college early. Bill Gates left early. I don't think it affected Harvard's reputation too much. There's 35,000 students at some of the schools where guys might leave early. I don't think one guy's going to have an effect on the academic standing of that school.

Q. Should the tournament be expanded to add four more teams? What's the opinion?
JIM BOEHEIM: Somebody else better take that one. If it was retroactive, I think it would be a great idea (smiling).
WILLIS WILSON: You know, this is a tough subject to digest. I'm not sure anybody really knows what the number is. There are a lot of issues. The mid-major issue, mid-majors that should be in. When you look at it this year, I think it was 104 teams won 20 or more games. There are a number of teams that are not getting the consideration for post-season play that there has been in the past.
It's something that coaches I think feel very strongly about, that there should be some level of expansion. But I think it's going to take more than just a basic conversation to figure out what that number is. I think it's going to take a little bit of time and a lot of discussion.
There are a lot more things I think behind the scenes that are going to go into determining what that magic number is. You can say four opening-round games, eight opening-round games, 96 teams. There are so many factors that go into it, I just think it's going to take all the constituencies to come together and decide what's in the best interest of the game. You certainly don't want to start down a road, make a mistake and have to backtrack.

Q. What are a few of those factors?
WILLIS WILSON: Number one, I think you have just a structure that's in place that's worked well for a long time. Examining that, if you're going to expand the tournament, how does that affect conference play? How does that affect the length of the season? How does that affect class time missed by student-athletes?
I think those are just a few that come to mind immediately, but there are also logistical issues of trying to travel. Let's say you expand it significantly. How do you travel that many teams, come up with the venues to be able to do the quality job that's been done historically with the tournament?

Q. You mentioned earlier the guys who decide they want to leave early for the NBA and then just give up on the spring semester. I've talked to some of those guys in the past. They say, I've got one shot. I want to work out with a certain guy, a certain spot. I want to make sure I do it right for my chance at the draft. How would you, moving forward, address this?
JIM BOEHEIM: Well, that's a huge issue. It is every year. I mean, I think players feel they have one chance, as you said, and they feel they can't wait two months to get started on their workouts, what they need to do.
The good players the NBA is bringing in anyway, so it's an issue. It's always been an issue that kids get to that second semester their senior year and they just feel they have to move on. Those guys end up not graduating. Many of them come back. I've had six guys do that. They all did come back eventually. One after 10 years. One is back now after 12 years to finish.
That's always an issue and a problem. It's just one that we try to address, but it is a very difficult issue. I talked to a coach today. He's said, We're a mid level school. He had a senior who's a really good player, had a good career. He was offered a contract to play in Sweden right now. He just took off, just left. Right on schedule to graduate in another month. He just left. Took the money and went.
Can't blame kids in some of those situations.
JIM HANEY: To give it a broader context in terms of the conversations on the coach's side, there are restrictions on the number of hours that the coach can work with his players out of season. So even though you work with them two hours out of eight in the off-season, even though the coach, this player is leaving, the access that the coach has to be able to work with that player, to be able to counter. You don't have to go to Los Angeles. You don't have to go to Atlanta to get trained, to be ready. We can help you do that.
Right now I think those are some of the issues that we need to address, not just we the NABC, but we as collegiate athletics in terms of where is the balance so we can -- where our seniors, kids who are looking to leave, even if they're leaving early, can see the opportunity to do both: continue to work toward their degree, get their degree, and at the same time prepare to go for their tryouts and competitions that may lead to their drafting in the NBA.

Q. Myles Brand said he thought expanding to 90 some teams or over a hundred would weaken the tournament in his view. He liked the idea, more accommodating to the idea of three or four more play-in games. I wonder how that strikes you?
TUBBY SMITH: I think when you look at the expansion issue, it's one that has to be investigated and studied. As Myles has indicated, and I think everyone else in college coaching associated with this great game, they don't want to do anything that's going to lead to the demise.
So you want to make sure that everything is in place, as Willis talked about before, all the different entities that are involved in pulling off the greatest basketball or the greatest sporting event probably in the country. It's over such a long period of time. There are so many issues that have to be addressed.
Certainly as coaches you want to see your peers, not just your coaching peers, but you want to see players, student-athletes, we talk about access, getting more people involved, you want to see them have that experience as well. That's my whole concept, is player well-being, trying to get as many of them exposed to this great tournament.
JIM BOEHEIM: Now that the diplomats have spoken (smiling), first of all, we were in the tournament last year, and I've talked about expansion so it's not because we're not in the tournament. I'd like to clarify that point.
I think we need a little bit more of an expansion than three, but I'm not in favor of a 96 or 120 or something like that. It's been 20 years since we went from 48 to 64, and unfortunately I was around at that particular time. Nobody said anything about this diluting the tournament field or this being too big of an expansion. It was 16 teams.
I believe today there are infinitely more quality teams than there were 20 years ago when we made that big expansion. I would be more in favor, and I agree with the two diplomats up here, that there are a lot of things to consider.
But cut right to it, I don't think it's hard to say we should figure a way to expand to seven or eight more teams if we can. If we can't, obviously you take the type of expansion you can get at this stage.
We used to start November 26th, get done the same weekend. Now we start November 6 and get done the same weekend. Obviously there's three weeks in there that we could have used one of those weeks to start the tournament earlier.
I think there's room. It's just a matter of figuring it all out. That will probably take a little bit of time before we get -- again, there's 336 schools and 65 are on, so that's 18%. I don't think we're going to dilute it if we get another eight teams in. I don't think that's a big dilution. We were in the NIT this year.
I was impressed, tremendously impressed, with the quality of teams in the NIT. I've been in it before and probably will be in it again. But the tournament field was infinitely better this year than it has been in the past from top to bottom. There weren't any teams in there because of their name or reputation or location or whatever. In fact, there were some teams with good reputations and locations that didn't get in.
There were I thought a lot of really good teams in the tournament. So I think there's more than enough quality teams out there to not dilute the NCAA field and still have a good field for the NIT at the end of the day.

Q. For the last few years conference champions from some of the smaller conferences have had to play in the play-in game. Do you feel the teams that should be participating in that are the at-large teams, the last bubble teams to get into the tournament?
JIM BOEHEIM: That's up for the tournament committee to figure out. That's not up to us to figure out, in my opinion.

Q. Mr. Robertson, I saw you smiling a moment ago. Could you give us a big-picture perspective on how much this tournament has grown? What is your general opinion of this current Florida Gators basketball team, their starters coming back for another season? Do you think in any way that will impact the game of college basketball at all?
OSCAR ROBERTSON: The five players coming back to play?

Q. The three or four.
OSCAR ROBERTSON: I think it's great. Any time you have that kind of unity -- they're the past champs. If that kid Humphrey starts making those three-point shots they're going to be tough (laughter).
It doesn't matter about how many teams you have in this tournament because you play your way in. I don't think it's a gift that you just put teams in. If it's 64, 264 or 300, that's where it should be. If you play right, win some basketball games, you're going to get in the tournament.
Some of those teams are never going to win anyway. Some of those teams, come from these smaller little conferences, they're not going to win. They're there to play one team, No. 1 seed, they're out. I don't really think that's fair to them, to be honest, but that's the system.

Q. Have any of you been deposed in the ongoing litigation about cost of attendance, the suit in Los Angeles? If not, do you have an opinion on whether the NCAA full scholarship should cost the full cost of attendance including textbooks and other ancillary things?
JIM HANEY: To my knowledge, none of the ones up here have been deposed. I have not been deposed. I think generally there's sort of a balance in the answer. Clearly the NCAA has made a concerted effort over the past 15 years to reach out to those in need and try to make sure if they have needs that those needs can be met through different funding pools.
But having said that, I think we would all consider making sure that the scholarship was at the cost of attendance. I think obviously it has merit in that you want to make sure that regardless of socioeconomic background, they all have an opportunity to come and go.
Just because someone may be termed "middle class" doesn't mean they have the funds to go back and forth and get home as maybe they would like because of family decisions on how money's going to be allocated.
I believe that would be my response to that question.

Q. Your league is one that not every team goes to the conference tournament. In your view, should that change? Does that make -- when there's a job opening at one of those schools that has not made the conference tournament, does that make that a less attractive job or tougher job to fill?
JIM BOEHEIM: I don't know. I think the problem with our conference is that none of the schools seem to think they're going to be the ones that aren't going to make it. They don't think that way. Coaches in our league obviously would like all the teams to come to New York, all 16, to have that opportunity.
When you don't play in the conference tournament, it's really -- you almost feel you're not a part of the conference I think. For the student-athletes, that's really the way they think. They just don't think they're in the conference.
There are some obvious logistical problems with bringing 16 teams to New York. But we've tried to get our thoughts across. But at this stage, the conference has decided on just 12 teams coming to New York.

Q. Can that be viewed as a job killer, if you just don't make your conference tournament?
JIM BOEHEIM: If you're not in the top 12 in any conference that you're in you're not going to be in your job anyway very long.

Q. Myles Brand, who I noticed is sitting here --
JIM BOEHEIM: I noticed it.

Q. You're still not a diplomat.
JIM BOEHEIM: I'm honest, you know. Doesn't mean I'm right. I just give my opinions. I'm just a coach.

Q. Dr. Brand was asked about the ballooning salaries of coaches. Nick Saban was the example given. He said that the NCAA had no regulatory power there. He said there was a question of propriety if salaries reach I guess a certain limit. I'm wondering how that strikes you?
JIM BOEHEIM: America's a great country (smiling). Some writers that I don't think can even write make hundreds of thousands of dollars writing books. People buy 'em. It's a great country.
I won't talk about college, but it's kind of like baseball. The owners keep writing these checks. About every eight years, they want to lock out the players because they're making too much money. I never heard of a player yet that would turn down a check.
I don't think there's anybody sitting in this room that would turn down a significant raise to do their job or to do their job at another place. That's just the marketplace. Everybody wants to get the best and be the best.
Tubby and I were talking about this today. He started out making $7,200. In '75, I was an assistant coach at Syracuse. In '75 we were in the Final Four, and I was making $11,500 and happy to be doing it. Two years later I became the head coach at Syracuse. I signed my first contract for $25,000. I was thrilled. I think I even went out to dinner. It was probably the first time it probably wasn't McDonald's.
But things have changed. You know, it is what it is. Presidents didn't used to make that much money either, did they, Myles? I don't think they made too much back in 1975.
I will say this because you brought it up. I think Dr. Brand has been the best thing that's happened to college sports, particularly college basketball, since I've been in this game.

Q. Why do you say that?
JIM BOEHEIM: I think he's encouraged people to talk and to communicate and to try to get people's ideas. Many times him and I do disagree - not many times, but quite often - and it doesn't affect our relationship or how he tries to work on the next thing. I think that's tremendous. He's willing to listen and try to help, not just coaches but the game of basketball.
Many times he does things that he thinks are right for the game, and I might disagree with him, but I think he's always doing it with the right motives and the right ideas.
TUBBY SMITH: You're in next year (laughter).
JIM BOEHEIM: I said that last year, too.
JIM HANEY: I would just add that from my perspective Myles Brand has really championed a real shift in terms of just the cooperation that exists with the national headquarters. Certainly we see it as an association, but I'm sure institutions and others do as well.
But I think it's not only Dr. Brand but certainly many of the staff we work with have been terrific in terms of trying to get our input, thoughts and perspective. Not that we may ultimately agree on what's decided, but it's tremendously encouraging to want to one's opinion heard. It's been very, very helpful.

Q. What was your reaction when you heard the news that the guy sitting in between you left Kentucky for Minnesota?
JIM BOEHEIM: I didn't know he was that smart (smiling).
WILLIS WILSON: Mine was, Wow. That was a big deal. I mean, it was a big deal for the University of Minnesota and a big deal for Tubby. I thought that was a great opportunity for two parties to come together and set a new course for that university.
I mean, I think generally speaking everybody I talked to, it was just, Wow.
JIM BOEHEIM: It was a shocking move. I believe Tubby is one of the great coaches in this game. I think Minnesota got an unbelievable coach. I think we'll see how it turns out for the other school.
I'd like to venture they won't have the same record over the next 10 years they had over the last 10.

Q. In that same vein, Tubby is not the only one that's left one of the more high-profile coaching jobs for another one. Is there a message out there with your profession? Is it pressure? I know it's not money. What is the tend now that's happened? You're leaving willingly for other jobs that might have been reverse just a few years ago?
JIM BOEHEIM: I just think you have -- I think the college coaching profession, for a lot of reasons that have been talked about here today, I think there's unrealistic expectations when you have teams -- when George Mason does what they do, I think people if they can do it, we can do it, that type of mentality exists.
I think when you see coaches that get to the tournament, have pretty good seasons, get fired, I think that's a concern for all of us in the coaching profession. For the NABC board, I know that's a tremendous concern for me and for us. That's, again, the landscape of what's out there right now.
TUBBY SMITH: A lot of it has to do with timing in one's life, one's career. Where are you in your -- for me in particular, it's a matter of being somewhere. The longest I lived anywhere is 10 years in this business. You know, that itch is part of it. And I mean between both parties.
Happens in marriages and everything else. But for me it was a great opportunity to touch other people's lives and to touch my life. It's an adventure.
That's how I view it. That's why I chose to make the move did when I did.
OSCAR ROBERTSON: Just a thought. When I heard this, I was happy for you, man. I must tell you. People think when you're at a certain spot, some people think it's heaven, but it's not always -- the grass is not always greener in a situation like that.
I thought you did such a tremendous job at Kentucky. I say this because they didn't have all the greatest talent in the world. You took them way beyond, way farther than anybody thought you would take them. I admire you for it. I'm glad you made this move.

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