Its starts when we’re young. Somebody takes us by the hand, puts a ball in it, and teaches us how to do really cool things. Sometimes they put us in line. Sometimes they put us ON the line. But they give us so much knowledge, leadership, guidance, confidence, and most of all, the opportunity to do what we love.. and that’s play basketball.
They’re our coach.
Everyone’s had a really good one (I hope). The ones that went out their way to care.. and to help us win even when it wasn’t related to the game of basketball. These aren’t coaches. These are heros.
One thing they are not though.. Coaches are not basketball agents. That’s not a bad thing of course.. Great college coaches are just that.. Great college coaches.. 24-7, 365.
“..our colleges coaches are paid to do one thing, coach basketball. Of course they do much, much more. But that’s a bonus..”
Unfortunately, they are somethings forced to step out of their lane and try to play the role of an agent. They make some calls to contacts they met on an off-season tour to Europe. They sit in on meetings where agents come to introduce themselves. Maybe they task their video guy to make a highlight film, or put together a .word doc resume for their seniors. Don’t get me wrong here, these are not bad things at all. They are actually quite commendable. At least somebody’s is doing it!
But when college coaches and administrative assistants are asked to do things they have no clue about, like taking total control and full responsibility of our professional affairs, or straight ‘winging it’ with their recommendations, then that’s when they could be doing more harm than good.
ONE LAST PLAY
That being said, some college coaches who are ex-professional players with really good advice. They have contacts at the NBA or international level and they can be outstanding resources. There are also coaches who are so used to producing lottery picks that they should have their faces stamped on the balls. Although they may not know the inner working of the professional basketball scene, it’s obvious that they would and should be able to steer their players in the right direction. And that’s it, show us which way is north and let us climb the ladder to greatness.
The point is, we as players shouldn’t expect our college coaching staff to take us by the hand and walk us down the path to successful basketball career. Again, our colleges coaches are paid to do one thing, coach college basketball. Of course they do much, much more, but those things are a bonus because they really don’t owe us anything more than to take our amateur career as far as it possibly can go.
Yeah, it sucks when our college coaches aren’t around for the day that we don our cap and gown. Especially when it was just four years ago they had sat in our kitchen, looked our mom in the face and said their number one goal was to see us get our degree. But to be honest, as long as they lived up to their promise, they really don’t owe us much more.
The reality is..when the clock ticks down to zero, and the buzzer sounds to end the last game of our senior season, our coach’s obligation to making us the best basketball players we can be.. has officially ended. Besides speaking really good about us at the post-season banquet, or making some calls to alumni to land us a job, anything more that our college coaches do for us should be viewed as a sincere act of kindness.
As soon as our college career is finished, it’s our coach’s job to find our replacements… to get out there recruiting.. whining, dining, and signing the next stud. The one that will take over our scholarship and carry the program forward.. hopefully to bigger and better heights.
So when we ask our coaching staff to dedicate time and resources to helping us with our professional basketball career, we are actually asking them to do something that is not in line with their occupational duties and responsibilities. And when they don’t have much experience or knowledge of how this thing called professional basketball works, especially at the international level, then any attempt they make to help could actually be doing more harm than good.
COACHES ON ‘COURTSHIP’
If our stats say that we are a pretty good college player, or if there is any chance that you we would have an interest in playing at the next level (which is pretty much all of us), then we will most likely receive some invitations to professional camps. Some of the invites come beautifully packaged, with our names in bold, and a long list of names of the many players who the camp or agency has served to find professional contracts. And too often we get these invitations confused with a personal invitation from someone who has watched us blossom as people and players and has a personally vested interest in representing us at the next level. In many cases, that is a far cry from what is really happening.
But when we receive the package from the hands of the person we’ve given our blood sweat and tears to for the past 2-4 years… the person we’ve entrusted our most treasured and valuable asset– our playing careers– , then it’s really easy to be swayed into thinking that the opportunity, the organization, and the people who placed the stamp on the invitation, are just as trustworthy as our university staff. It’s easy to assume that the organization has been thoroughly researched and that the invitation is our golden opportunity, our big ticket to fame, fortune, and a successful future as a pro basketball player.
This same assumption can be made when it is not a camp invitation, but rather a sports manager or agent that comes knocking with invitations to dinner, free bottles for the party, keys to a beautiful car, and cash to line our crippled pockets. But we all know the silly phrase about what happens when we ‘ass’ume.
This message is not to dissuade college coaches to participate in the lives of their players after college basketball. Please. Please. Do all you can do. It’s also not a conviction for coaches who facilitate meetings with agents or who pass along camp invites to their players. Instead, it’s a simple request for everyone–coaches and players–to be more cautious, more studious, and more thorough in the investigation of anything or anyone that comes around asking about talking to their graduating seniors.
“..to place our professional careers solely in the hands of our college coaches, is not only asking way too much, it is setting ourselves up for massive failure..”
BUT make no mistake, this IS a charge for players to take full ownership of their professional careers. The easy thing to do is to ‘concentrate on graduation’ and let someone else ‘handle it.’ It really pisses me off when I reach out to players to speak to them about their professional careers and they say something like, ‘contact (put in just about anyone you can image) about that stuff.’ And come to find out, the someone they put in charge is their dad, their uncle, or some high school AAU coach. These are the players who at some point in time are highly likely to be taken advantage of. These are the guys who find themselves sitting at home a few years later talking about how good they are, trying to tell everyone their story, and bitter because they don’t know why opportunity has passed them by.
Opportunity waits for no one. Great players come and go. And scams are harder to identify than you may think. As soon as you think you’re fully protected.. that you’ve built your career on solid ground, then reality comes like the big bad wolf. It huffs.. puffs.. and blows your house down. We all know about the stories of multi-millionaire players that lost all their fortunes. Sadly, most of them had it coming. But it’s not always the case. Some of the most ‘successful’ players you will ever meet have made some serious mistakes.
I once played with a former NCAA National Champion and NBA first round draft pick (I can’t share his name b/c he is a good friend and as of this writing I did not get his permission to share his story.) An articulate, deep thinker, it was clear that he took great pride in being a well-educated, student-athlete that took a very meticulous approach to his professional career from the very start.
His NBA career was successful right out the gate. He made the All-Rookie 2nd team and in his second and third seasons as a pro, he averaged over 18 and 16 points per game respectively. Then came the big pay day… a six-year $43 million deal that he most certainly deserved. Early the next season, he suffered a rare groin injury that pretty much ended his NBA career. But since his $ was guaranteed, he still collected every penny that was owed to him.
After an unsuccessful attempt to make a comeback, he decided to sit down with his accountantS and in order to gain a better perspective of what his financial future would hold. After a few meetings, and a thorough investigation, he discovered that his agent, his accountant, and the accountant that he had hired to watch his accountant, were all working together to move money from his possession and into theirs. Needless to say, he fired them all and later sued their asses to recoup his cash.
I tell this story because it is very easy for us to entrust our livelihoods into the hands of other people. Especially when things may seem too obscure for us to manage, and seem to be going well.
But one can never be too cautious or too engaged in our professional basketball affairs. We may not all have $43 million NBA contracts waiting for us. But as many of us will end up playing professionally outside of the US, we also don’t have the American justice system to protect us when things go wrong.
So to place our professional careers solely in the hands of our college coaches, is not only asking way too much, it is setting ourselves up for massive failure at some point, somewhere down the line.
Thanks so much for your time in reading and commenting on this post.
iBall United is committed to build and sustain professional careers of basketball players around the world. For more information on how iBall can do the same for you, visit our website at http://iballunited.net.