NBA, NCAA Plan to Make Plans
Tuesday, April 8, 2008; 2:15 PM
SAN ANTONIO -- On the afternoon of the 2008 national championship game a powerful and influential group of basketball officials sat on a podium -- two of them actually -- in front of a packed hotel ballroom to make a very important announcement about the future of youth basketball.
NBA Commissioner David Stern was there, as was NCAA President Myles Brand. Georgia Tech basketball Coach Paul Hewitt was the third man at the front table. They had the speaking roles.
Behind them sat representatives of two shoe companies, high school basketball, USA basketball and the AAU. In all, 10 people were at the "Developmental Table."
The dog and pony didn't have seats but they were very much present in the room.
Brand spoke first and was followed by Stern and Hewitt. They spoke in glowing terms about the coming together of the basketball world to try to improve the quality of youth basketball. They said they were forming a corporation that would (of course) have a web site. They were proud and happy to make this announcement.
But what exactly did they announce?
"Good question," Stern said later. "I think what we're trying to say is we're all working together to make tangible progress in areas where we need to make progress."
Those areas, according to Brand include building strong communities educating athletes, supporting coaches, developing officials and building events for youth competition.
All noble goals. How did they plan to reach them?
"That's our next step," Brand said. "What we've established here is a partnership and a corporation (no name for it yet) that is going to try to work on all of these issues."
Perhaps they could have added that they would also like to work on the issues of World Hunger; ending the war in Iraq and health insurance for all Americans. There appeared to be as many tangible ideas in the room on those issues as on that of youth basketball.
If you cut through all the eloquence, here's what is going on: everyone in basketball knows that summer basketball has run amok. AAU coaches frequently play a more important role in the lives of their players than high school coaches. Some AAU coaches aren't even coaches, just street agents who pose as coaches to get close to players who are seen as future stars -- and moneymakers. The shoe companies want a piece of this pie -- and have pretty much taken control of it -- and most high school stars will tell you that their AAU coach, their street-agent (who usually comes in the form of an 'uncle') and several shoe company reps are their best pals in life.