When you compare the college basketball scene to the NBA, there is a big difference in coaching security and stability.
There is absolutely no stability for coaching in the NBA. You can have great success, even be the coach of the year one season, then gone the next. Go ask George Karl about stability. He is a brilliant leader, but he lost his job and ended up broadcasting instead of sitting on the bench. That is an absolute joke.
Recently, there has been talk about Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel fighting for his coaching life. All he did this season was lead his team to the best record in the Eastern Conference, even better than the defending champion Miami Heat. He has impressed in the regular season, but it is all about the postseason, and you are judged on today. It is that simple. Now that the Pacers are down 2-1 to the Hawks as of Friday, the pressure is even greater. If Indiana loses, he could be packing his bags.
Front office personnel and ownership could care less about the hardware that came your way. The resume doesn't matter -- it is about instant performance.
Look at what happened to Vinny Del Negro with the Clippers last season. His team won 56 games in the regular season but did not advance far enough in the playoffs. Did he suddenly become a worse coach? And he wasn't alone -- other coaches, including Karl, were let go after 50-win seasons. Unbelievable.
On the collegiate level, do you think a coach is out on the street if he has one bad year? Guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, John Calipari -- do you think they will get the Ziggy? Look at Kentucky last year, falling to Robert Morris in the NIT. Calipari bounced back and got his team into the championship game this season.
These guys have much more stability running their programs on the college level. They are truly in charge, not having to answer to a chain of command like the pros. Of course they have an athletic director and school president to answer to, but their resumes and past success have meaning.
Why would a guy want to jeopardize that by running to the pros? There is a long list of guys who tried the NBA and did not fare well. Names like Jerry Tarkanian, Leonard Hamilton and Lon Kruger did not enjoy success at the next level. Calipari and Pitino proved better off on the collegiate sideline, too.
There is the ego factor, the glamour of the NBA, and the bucks are a little bit bigger. College head coaches are making a nice living, too, believe me. The top guys are just fine. How much do they have to make? They should not mess with happiness.
I learned the hard way, running from the collegiate level to the Detroit Pistons in 1978. A little more than one year later, I got the Ziggy and I was crushed. Then along came ESPN, and I got a lucky break. I haven't lost a game in 35 years.
I think about the world of college basketball vs. the NBA, and it is pretty simple. The pros are all about the players. For example, look at the transition the Knicks are going through as Phil Jackson, with all of those championship rings, tries to instill a different mindset in the Big Apple.
Jackson did a great job handling so many stars when he won title after title with the Bulls and the Lakers. He got them to perform and did it brilliantly. But remember, he had stars. Looking at the current Knicks roster? Come on. Carmelo Anthony's future is in question.
There are rumors of Steve Kerr as a potential coach, and he is a good man who knows the game. You could put anybody there, but there is one guy missing from the equation of success from those days in Chicago: Michael Jordan.
Kerr and Ron Harper (a possible assistant in New York) might come in, but you have to face reality. This franchise will not have success overnight.
The NBA is a players' league, while college basketball is run by the leaders on top, the coaches. In the one-and-done scenarios, the elite coaches remain at the head of the class. They are the leaders, the winners in the sport. Year in and year out, they fill the gaps.
I know that there are others in college basketball moving around. A number of the changes occur when guys fill vacancies, like Cuonzo Martin going to California or Frank Haith heading to Tulsa.
I had a taste of the NBA, barely a cup of coffee. I didn't have time to put the milk in.
Trust me, life in the NBA, with its 82-game schedule and the travel involved, is very difficult. Give me the college sideline anytime!