The persistent whistles and accompanying fouls. The poor shooting and low scoring. Zubaz jerseys. Yes, college basketball seems to have an image problem this season.
Fear not, fans. Louisville Coach Rick Pitino has a solution: Follow the NBA-brick road toward freedom of movement.
“I think [ESPN analyst] Jay Bilas has done a tirade on the way college is being played,” Pitino said Sunday. “I started thinking about it because I was on a committee many years ago with a bunch of coaches, Pat Riley, Larry Brown, general managers, about 18 of us in the room. David Stern called the meeting to change professional basketball. I think at the time there were only one or two teams breaking 100. Pro basketball was ugly, just like you’re saying now.
“We talked about the zone. We talked about eight seconds in the back court. Then we left the meeting and everybody wanted to do something about it.
“Go back a little bit, for all the New York guys. My team with the Knicks averaged 116.8 points in the game and we were third in the league in scoring. The NBA came full cycle, couldn’t break 100.
“What was happening is, all the things we tried to come up with weren’t the answer.”
But what is the answer, Rick?! Tell us! Please!
“What happened in the NBA now is they stopped all the arm bars, all the standing up of screens, all the coming across and chopping the guy. They stopped all that. Now there’s freedom of movement in the NBA and you see great offense.
“When you coach in the Big East, you should wear body guard. Peyton [Siva] wears body guard, shoulder pads, because you can’t cut, can’t move. The referees are caught in a quandary. They’re saying, ‘We’re going to ruin the game, we’re on TV.’ Jay is 100 percent right: If we want to get back, take a page out of the NBA, have freedom of movement.”
Fair enough. But on the surface, this conflicts directly with Louisville’s in-your-face defensive style, which forces the nation’s second-highest turnover rate, according to Kenpom.com.
“Yeah, to be honest with you, we don’t really foul too much. Russ [Smith] will once in a while, like, he’ll get in the guy’s jocks and use his hands. We don’t do those things to stop freedom of movement.
“Russ, I’ll be honest with you, I told him last night, ‘That’s a foul, son.’ He got after the guy, that’s a foul.
“I’m all for it. We got to get through this year, then something has to be done about it. I complained for three years about coaches having conversations with referees. That was my biggest thing to the commissioners, is how can, during the game, the referees talk to coaches. Can you imagine someone screaming in your ear as you’re trying to make a Wall Street trade? You can’t do that.
“I think the freedom of movement has to start next year from the exhibition games. Have to allow it to happen. One of the worst things about certain calls, happens to Gorgui all the time, goes up for an offensive rebound, over-the-back call, second foul, he’s got to sit. You do have to call what you see. But the arm bars, the stopping of the screening and the stopping of the cutting is what was cleaned up the NBA.”