“I have good relationships, but it’s not nearly what David has,” Rice said. “We don’t get three or four of the kids that we have — three or four of my starters, to be honest with you — without David being on my staff. . . . Right or wrong, AAU is where you get your assistants from now.”
The NCAA injected itself into the issue with a rule change in January 2010. If individuals associated with a prospect were given non-coaching roles on a college team — director of player personnel, for example — the school that hired them had to wait at least two years before recruiting players that had contact with the new hires.
That forced college head coaches to use one of their three coveted assistant coach slots if they wanted to hire an AAU coach and continue to recruit the players from that person’s former program.
“Maybe they haven’t worked their way up the ladder, but with AAU coaches, once you get in, you’ve got to earn your keep,” said former Wright State Coach Paul Biancardi, who got his start in coaching as a volunteer assistant at Boston University. He now serves as ESPN’s director of recruiting. “The bad part is . . . when that [Indiana] job opened, every assistant in the MAC or the Horizon [League] was saying, ‘Wow, maybe I can jump to the next level,’ and didn’t get that look. There’s nothing wrong, but you felt for those guys that are trying to climb.”
For his part, Johnson called the influx of Washington AAU coaches into college basketball “a storm” because of all the talent coming out of the area. He also conceded that “maybe someone there to bridge the gap socially will give you an advantage” in recruiting. At one point, Johnson even referred to Team Takeover as “we” before correcting himself.
But Crean insisted the reasons behind Johnson’s hiring go beyond recruiting, including the fact that he already had two former head coaches on his staff, which would allow Johnson to ease into his new role. Johnson also received high praise from current Hoosiers Victor Oladipo (DeMatha) and Maurice Creek (who spent two seasons at Oxon Hill, which is Johnson’s alma mater) — both of whom played for him with Team Takeover.
“I’ve never been into hiring silver-spoon guys,” Crean said. “Knowing players, knowing an area, having friendships and relationships, absolutely that’s a part of it. But if you can’t communicate, you can’t make people better, those relationships run dry fast. It’s about does this person have the ability to have the whole package. I believe Kenny fits that bill.”