The consensus among those with even a casual connection to summer shoe circuits and college basketball recruiting was that last month’s college hoops scandal had all the ingredients of a made-for-TV drama – fraud, corruption, pay-for-play, wiretaps, the FBI, the United States Attorney’s Office, arrests and more.
However, nobody seemed surprised.
“Nothing new; it’s just in front of you now,” said John Lucas, widely regarded as one of the foremost authorities for basketball training and development on every level.
A former All-American at Maryland, Lucas played in the NBA for 14 years before serving as head coach for the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Currently, Lucas is the Director of Player Development with the Houston Rockets.
“The problem is that these guys get involved with kids to make money,” Lucas said. “If you’re helping a kid because you think you’re gonna ride off the kid financially, it’s gonna be a short ride if there’s a ride at all. I’ve literally had billions of dollars come through my gym and I think we’ve got a shooting machine as a result. It can’t be about the money, but clearly it is.”
The FBI’s investigation alleges that several top-rated prospects took bribes of $15,000 and $100,000 to attend specific colleges.
Asked to give a percentage of how many top-rated players he thinks are offered money throughout the course of their recruitments, Lucas settled on “most.”
“It’s not just D-1 guys; it always tickles me when people say D-II players aren’t offered money,” Lucas said. “It’s not the same money, but it’s money. Kids become pros long before they’re pros. It creates a spiritual emptiness at the grassroots level with our kids because they don’t know what to work for.”
Two of the men named in the federal indictment, Adidas executive James Gatto and Merl Code Jr., also an Adidas employee, face federal charges for bribery.
The FBI also issued subpoenas to employees of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League.
As a result, speculation is running rampant about the future of the summer shoe circuits.
“I hope that the circuits stay around because they serve a purpose for kids for sure,” Lucas said. “I do think that this can be a window for AAU Basketball to come back involved. The sad part is that we’ve lost leadership in the college ranks.”
Four assistant basketball coaches from Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern California were charged, and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was placed on indefinite unpaid leave and “effectively fired” as a result of the investigation.
“Again, it’s all about money,” Lucas said. “The one time that you pay a kid, you aren’t the coach anymore. Now you work for the family. Now you can only coach the kid so far. I mean, what can that coach tell that kid about honor and morals and accountability? It starts at the top. This is just another example of that, but it’s been going on for years and everyone shares the blame. It will be interesting to see what happens in the aftermath of this.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY