Brad Stevens is universally loved in the college coaching profession.
So don't take the shock and surprise of Stevens' move to the NBA's iconic franchise in Boston as a sign of disrespect.
His peers and colleagues are simply in awe by the timing, not by the move.
"The best young coach I have seen in my time," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. It's high praise for Stevens, who coached in consecutive national title games in 2010 and '11.
"Coach Stevens is everything that is right about our profession, and was an absolute star at Butler," said Marquette's Buzz Williams, who was going to be a chief rival for Butler in the new Big East Conference but now will face a new coach in the fledgling league. "I anticipate he will be the exact same with the Celtics."
Stevens had professed for a few years how comfortable he was at Butler. He was hand-picked by his former mentor, Barry Collier, to be the head coach. He could have jetted off to UCLA. He would have had Illinois. He may have been next in line to be the head coach at Indiana or Duke or Kansas or North Carolina whenever those jobs were to open. Who knows? He was that highly coveted and respected.
"I am very excited for Brad, his family and the Boston Celtics," said Ohio State's Thad Matta, a former Butler coach. "He did a masterful job in his time at Butler, and as an alum I know he will be greatly missed. He has a great mind for the game and great instincts in dealing with players. I look forward to following his path to success with the Celtics."
New UCLA coach Steve Alford, a native of Indiana like Stevens, has always had incredible respect for the way Stevens has handled himself and the program.
"I'm very happy for Brad," Alford said. "He's done a phenomenal job at Butler and is very deserving of this opportunity. Great hire by the Celtics."
To Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who is just a year younger than Stevens at 35, there was immense adoration for the path Stevens has blazed for coaches younger than 40.
"I think Brad is one of the great coaches of the game, regardless of college or pro," Pastner said. "It's basketball. He'll do great with the Celtics. It's a great hire by Danny Ainge. A great hire. I think age is overrated. You either get the job done or you don't. You can do it or you can't. He's proven he can do the job. He has had tremendous success at Butler."
But no one has been more effusive in his constant praise of Stevens than Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, the USA Olympic and national team coach. Krzyzewski was quick to compliment Stevens in the lead-up to the 2010 national title game. Coach K's Blue Devils beat the Bulldogs 61-59 -- in Indianapolis -- in one of the most epic national title games in the past 25 years.
Krzyzewski said he was as surprised as everyone else by the Celtics tabbing Stevens. But he said that's because "Brad is one of the great college coaches. He's an outstanding coach. He's at a time -- he's young -- I can see him wanting to do something different. He's terrific. It's a great hire for the Celtics."
Krzyzewski said he knows exactly what Stevens was going through since he had to weigh the same decision in 1990 when the late Dave Gavitt approached him about being the head coach of the Celtics. Krzyzewski said no at the time.
"I almost did it with the Celtics," Krzyzewski said. "I can understand it."
A source told ESPN.com on Wednesday night that the Celtics tabbed Stevens as their top choice once Doc Rivers was let out of his contract and essentially traded to the Clippers. The Celtics loved his character and knowledge of the game. His demeanor didn't hurt, either. He has always been extremely even.
"He's really smart," Krzyzewski said. "His teams play that way. He's just a heckuva of a coach. He has a maturity of an established head coach right away. I just think -- forget about young coaches -- I think he's one of the best coaches. I don't think you could have a better guy. He's smart and he'll adapt. I think he'll do a really good job there."
Recent college-to-NBA head coaching gigs have been doomed to fail, including Mike Dunlap, who went from being a St. John's assistant to the head coach in Charlotte, Lon Kruger going to Atlanta, Mike Montgomery to Golden State, or Leonard Hamilton to Washington.
But this is the Celtics and Stevens, who has been penciled in for a Hall of Fame ticket after six seasons by his peers. Krzyzewski isn't worried about the veteran NBA players giving him instant credibility in the locker room and in the huddle.
"He'll have respect," Krzyzewski said. "He's accomplished. Players respect success. He's had great success right away. So I don't think he'll have any problem with the players respecting him. They'll respect him. They respect excellence. He has it. It's a terrific hire. I'm a friend of his and I wish him the very best and I'll be pulling for him. To take over one of the most storied franchises in sports in an incredible opportunity, I can understand him doing it."
The FIBA U-19 World Championships may not resonate here at home, but the goal of winning gold has never been more explicit within USA basketball.
As the seriousness of the men's national team has taken on a new level in the last eight years, the junior national team has followed that example.
Coaches are returning. Players are, too. Suddenly, playing for Team USA has value -- as it should.
But this is not an all-star team. This is a team that will compete in Prague next week, crafted to fit Florida's Billy Donovan's coaching style. He wanted a team that could press, rebound, defend and generate turnovers. The havoc fits the way one of his assistants -- VCU's Shaka Smart -- loves to coach.
"I like this team a lot,'' Donovan said. "More than anything this group of kids understands the sacrifice and attitude and work ethic.''
Here is the final 12-man roster and Donovan's assessment of what they've done and can do for Team USA, which begins play in the Czech Republic on June 27. The gold-medal game is set for July 7.
Michael Frazier, 6-4, G, So., Florida
"He comes in as the best shooter. One of the things we struggled with was behind the line. He really provides shooting. In our scrimmage against Air Force he was 4 of 6. He can be a spot-up shooter against a zone and help us space the floor a bit.''
Aaron Gordon, 6-6, F, Fr., Arizona
"He's really, really athletic. He's got a great motor. He can play the 3, the 4. He's really, really good in the press. He's really, really active, and he's going to be a very good player with a great motor.''
Jerami Grant, 6-6, F, So., Syracuse
"He's been sick with strep throat. But he'll be healthy [for the tournament]. Like Gordon, he gives us another versatile frontcourt guy. Like Gordon, he can play a 3, 4 and 5 and his shooting has gotten better. He was on the team a year ago. He gives us great length and is versatile.''
Montrezl Harrell, 6-7, F, So., Louisville
"He's like Gordon and Grant in that he's really athletic. His skill level has gotten better [since last year]. He's really active. We can do a lot of things defensively with those three guys in Gordon, Harrell and Grant. We can press and switch and they can guard a lot of different positions, get out and run a little bit. We could play all three at the same time.''
Jahlil Okafor, 6-10, C, Whitney Young HS, Chicago
"He's really, really skilled in the low post. He's got a big body with a long wingspan. The way we're playing fast, running and pressing, he's the guy we can throw the ball inside and he'll make good things happen. He's a lot more mature than his age. He's going to play well with the pick-and-roll. He's a big, strong kid. We can go high-low with him and he can work his way to the basket. He's got a good skill level.''
Elfrid Payton, 6-3, G, Jr., Louisiana-Lafayette
"He came in as the surprise. He's really rangy and a very good defender. He can play multiple positions. He's really crafty with the ball and can get in the lane. The best thing he does is pass. He's a really good on-ball defender.''
Marcus Smart, 6-4, G, So., Oklahoma State
"He's been great leadership-wise. I think he's gotten better shooting the ball. His presence and competitiveness and strength and size will help us. So will his will. He came back to school and to us and that really helps our team. He has an incredible presence. I will play him at the point. But he'll also play the 2 and 3. We've got a lot of guys who can play different positions.''
Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, F, Jr., Tennessee
"He's really physical. He was with us last year and he can be a monster around the basket for us. Last year, we kept more guards. This year, more frontcourt guys.''
Rasheed Sulaimon, 6-3, G, So., Duke
"He's a good scorer. He was with us last year. He's shooting the ball with more consistency. He's more comfortable with the international line. We've got to get him to take over more of a leadership role. He was on the trip last year with Smart [when Donovan led them to the gold in Brazil for the U-18 title]. And he played a lot with Duke and that's important.''
Mike Tobey, 6-11, F, So., Virginia
"He's been really good. I think he'll really help us against the zone. After the first day or two, he adjusted and played really well.''
Nigel Williams-Goss, 6-3, G, Fr., Washington
"He's got a lot of the intangibles. He's a great leader and a really good motor. He's more advanced than his age. He's always played at a high level. He'll play the 2 for us.''
Justise Winslow, 6-6, F, St. John's HS, Houston
"He's a 6-6 guy that can play the 2, 3, 4 and really good in the press. The thing that's good for him is his overall skill, passing and unselfishness. He can guard several different positions. He's really athletic. He's a pass-first player that can slash to the basket.''
All because of über-recruit Jabari Parker, right?
Not so fast.
Parker is worthy of the hype and will no doubt be a big part of the Blue Devils' success, but it's the less-talked-about addition of Rodney Hood that could make all the difference in Durham. A transfer from Mississippi State, Hood is one of only four Division I transfers in 33 years under Mike Krzyzewski (joining Roshown McLeod, Dahntay Jones and Seth Curry).
Two seasons ago in the SEC, he averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and two assists a game as a freshman. Hood wasn't as nationally known because of the Bulldogs' struggles, but he is sure to be a household name in 2013-14 after sitting out the past year due to NCAA transfer rules.
As we continue our early look at the upcoming season, I caught up with Hood on the phone after he finished working out on Duke's campus.
Andy Katz: What did you improve on the most during your redshirt season?
Rodney Hood: I got a lot stronger and spent a lot of time in the weight room and got more comfortable handling the ball and playing on the blue team and second team and working on my ballhandling skills. I improved my all-around game.
AK: Who did you reach out to about how to handle redshirting?
RH: I talked to Seth [Curry] and he told me to stay in the gym. He said he always tried to stay in the gym so it takes your mind off sitting out. I talked to my ex-teammate at Mississippi State, Arnett Moultrie [who had transferred from UTEP], and he said to stay focused on the goals you want to have.''
AK: How much do you think people forgot you're at Duke?
RH: A lot. I kind of like it that way. It's much better to come up on the scene. It's fine. A lot of people didn't see me. They don't know who I am.
AK: How would you compare Duke to Mississippi State?
RH: The atmosphere here at Duke, the coaching staff and everyone around here expects excellence. Everybody is trying to do big things in life and in academics. They're doing the right things off the court and being held accountable. It has helped me be a better person in this off year.
AK: How did this year off from games help in the transition to Duke academically?
RH: I thought I would start off struggling at Duke. But I'm taking things that I really enjoy. The classes are fun. They allow you to be a student. It's not just multiple- choice tests. There are papers, and you can say what you feel on different things. That fits me as a student. It definitely helped that I wasn't playing. I didn't travel with the team until late. I was here, and it helped me focus more on my studies. It was a great year for me to get acclimated to Duke.
AK: How much did you consider declaring for the draft this spring?
RH: There were a lot of people around me, not in my circle, but people talking that said I could have gone because it was a weak draft. I'm too invested in Duke basketball. I love it here. I've grown with the players and the coaches and coaching staff. This was a no-brainer to stay here. I wasn't even thinking it. I want to play at least one season here at Duke.
AK: Duke lost Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee. Three big losses. How can you guys compete for a national title in 2014?
RH: The one thing I've seen since the season ended was the commitment from the team, particularly in the weight room. We haven't had too many basketball workouts. We're long, but we're not muscular guys. We're getting in the weight room and we're excited about the season. This will be a different team, a different dynamic. Other than Marshall [Plumlee], we don't have a true big man. But we've got a lot of versatility [with a deep backcourt of Hood, Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton]. The one thing everyone is excited about is the commitment to get better individually.
AK: What can people expect from you in 2013-14?
RH: I just plan on coming in and making some noise. I expect you'll see my best effort. I can't promise this or that. But I will help my team win and get us in the best position to win.
AK: What has it been like to be coached by Mike Krzyzewski?
RH: Right now it's totally different than when I first stepped on campus. Then, it was Coach K and he had just won the Olympics. He is the all-time winningest coach in college basketball. I was in awe. I wasn't intimidated, but I was in awe. Now I'm excited to learn from him. And I've learned so much. I've seen how passionate he is as a coach and how he prepares for games. It's something I've never seen before in a coach.
He is now at a school where the pool of talent is small and is limited by the highest academic standards in the Big Ten.
Collins, who been on the job for a little more than a week, has one goal, and that is to get Northwestern to the NCAA tournament for the first time.
Since he arrived in Evanston last week, his main focus has been on these five items:
1. Know his team: Collins has spent the first week working on developing relationships with his returning players. "We're on the quarter system, and that kind of helps us. They'll be in school until June, so it gives me time to work our guys out some and get to know them in individual meetings and get on the court to get to know them as players. I've got to develop relationships with the whole team." Collins held his first individual workouts Tuesday with the hope that his players could immediately understand his coaching style and get a feel for how he wants them to play. One of the key decisions he's waiting on is from leading scorer Drew Crawford, who missed all but 10 games this season with a torn labrum. Collins said Crawford could do a fifth year because he has graduated. "He's being sought after," Collins said. "It's the new free agency. He loves it here. He's been a good player." Collins said he expects JerShon Cobb, who was suspended for the year because of academic issues, to return.
2. Assemble a staff: Collins decided to keep assistant Tavaras Hardy, who played at Northwestern and recruited many of the players on the current roster. But that's been his only hire so far. "I have to take time to figure out what's going to be the right mix. I need guys who are going to complement me in all areas of coaching, recruiting and player development and all of those things. I have to take my time to get it right." Collins said he's not sure whether he will hire anyone from Duke. He will be able to lean on his father, Doug, in an advisory role when the NBA season is over. Obviously, that could turn into something more if the senior Collins doesn't return to coach the Philadelphia 76ers next season.
3. Recruit: Collins is visiting one-time Northwestern commit Jaren Sina, a point guard out of Lake Hopatcong, N.J., this weekend. Sina asked for and received his release when Bill Carmody was fired. Nate Taphorn, a 6-7 forward from Pekin, Ill., has never wavered in his commitment to Northwestern and will honor his national letter of intent. "The fact that I'm at a similar type of school helps," said Collins when comparing Duke and his current situation. "We will aspire to attract the same quality player and character kid at Northwestern."
4. Get to know his surroundings: Collins is back in the Midwest and Chicago. Although he needs to figure out his recruiting needs, he also has to embed himself in the area. Northwestern is a national-profile job, and he understands its importance to the Chicago area and the state. He will need to make a concerted effort to get out and know key basketball people in the city and beyond.
5. Family: This is usually the time of year when Chris is at home with his wife and two elementary school-age children. Instead, he's staying in a hotel while the rest of his family stays in North Carolina so the children can finish school. The plan is to attempt to sell their house near Duke, find one near Evanston and decide on schools. "There's so much on your plate right now," Collins said. "You're working long days, and there are so many loose ends. We've got to find a place to live." Collins was on the Team USA staff last summer, which meant a long summer in Europe. Now a new job has meant no free time to be around the family, and he's missing the spring sports season at home. That can be a stressful situation for anyone. "It puts a strain on everything in your family," Collins said. "But fortunately I have a great family, and they've been supportive through all of this. But it has made it crazy."
The beauty of the college basketball regular season is that a team can lose a few games and still be in fine position for a national championship run.
But there is always an allure about those who enter their conference season unblemished to see how invincible they will be entering the New Year.
Prior to Thursday night's games, there were five remaining unbeaten teams and 19 one-loss teams, as well as two others (Florida, 8-2) and (Kentucky, 8-3) that cannot and should not be dismissed from any Final Four discussion. Both the Wildcats and Gators have played a much more difficult schedule than the majority of one-loss and undefeated teams.
There are a slew of one-loss teams that are more than capable of winning the national title such as Kansas (10-1), Louisville (11-1), Syracuse (10-1), Indiana (11-1), Creighton (11-1), UNLV (11-1), Missouri (10-1) and Gonzaga (11-1). And it's easy to make the argument that those teams, such as Kansas, Louisville, Syracuse and Indiana, are more likely to challenge for the national title than the five remaining undefeated teams.
But for the purposes of this argument, let's look at the remaining unbeatens as they stand today:
Most impressive wins: Minnesota, VCU and Louisville in successive days in Atlantis; Kentucky in Atlanta; Ohio State at home and Temple in New Jersey.
Biggest question answered: Quinn Cook is a starting point guard and has been a stable presence.
National player of the year candidate: Mason Plumlee. Plumlee has been a double-double machine for the Blue Devils. He may be the most reliable player at his position in the country.
Difference-maker: When Seth Curry is making 3s, the Blue Devils are even harder to beat.
What to watch for: How will Duke handle true road games in the ACC? The three toughest games on the schedule would seem to be at NC State (Jan. 12), at Maryland (Feb. 16) and at North Carolina (March 9).
Final Four potential: Duke has to be considered a favorite to land in Atlanta. The team possesses experience at key positions, younger players who are becoming increasingly comfortable, there is size inside and now a growing confidence that it can win the championship.
Most impressive wins: Pitt in New York at the NIT Season Tip-Off and NC State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Biggest question answered: The Wolverines don't miss Stu Douglass and Zach Novak as much as was predicted. The youthful Wolverines have bought into John Beilein's defensive concepts.
National player of the year candidate: Trey Burke is an exceptional point guard. He gets the Wolverines up and running as efficiently as any point in the country. His play has allowed Tim Hardaway Jr., to flourish in his natural position.
What to watch for: How does Michigan get through the Big Ten gauntlet? The Big Ten is the toughest conference this season, and Michigan will have to navigate trips to Ohio State (Jan. 13), Minnesota (Jan. 17), Illinois (Jan. 27), Indiana (Feb. 2), Wisconsin (Feb. 9) and Michigan State (Feb. 12). I would put that conference road schedule against any other contender in the country. It's not close. This is the toughest.
Final Four potential: Michigan has proved that it has the point guard play, the shooting, the power play inside and can defend well enough to get to Atlanta.
Most impressive wins: Florida in Tucson and San Diego State in the final of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
Biggest question answered: Mark Lyons has adjusted as well as any one-year transfer I can remember. He was handed a leadership role and has excelled, making a game-winning shot to beat Florida. He has proved to be a consistent presence for the Wildcats at the point.
National player of the year candidate: Lyons, Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson have all had their moments and will be in contention for Pac-12 player of the year. But none will get enough momentum for consideration for national player of the year.
Difference-maker: Johnson. He has been the ultimate glue guy, making key plays in a variety of ways, none bigger than blocking Chase Tapley's potential game-winning layup in the Diamond Head final.
What to watch for: Arizona is the favorite in the Pac-12 and enters the conference doing more than enough to raise the conference's profile. The road wins at Texas Tech and Clemson were games the Wildcats should have won and they did. The comeback win over Florida was a tremendous effort and confidence boost. Getting through the rugged Diamond Head proved they had the stamina. Now, Arizona has to rise to the challenge of being the team to beat in the Pac-12. It is more than doable based on the inconsistency of the rest of the conference.
Final Four potential: This squad has it. The key will be the continued development of the newcomers, notably Kaleb Tarczewski, who is getting featured more and more as he improves his activity on the court.
Most impressive wins: Oregon in Las Vegas; Xavier in a rivalry game and Alabama at home when the Tide were playing well.
Biggest question answered: The Bearcats are never going to be a dominant low-post scoring team. But when needed, the Bearcats have been able to finish around the basket. Titus Rubles, JaQuon Parker, Justin Jackson and Cheikh Mbodj can take care of business of scoring and defending the post when locked in to the task at hand. The Bearcats have bigs serviceable enough to get by in the Big East.
National player of the year candidate: Sean Kilpatrick will enter the Big East as a legit player of the year contender. He has the ability to score in bunches. He flourishes playing off Cashmere Wright, who has stabilized the point.
Difference-maker: Wright. Mick Cronin has the confidence to hand him the ball and let him make a play, as he did against Alabama. Wright is a senior and has asserted himself as much more of a leader on a team that desperately needed to be led.
What to watch for: The Bearcats take possessions off and sometimes go through the motions. That cannot happen in the Big East with a host of teams that could easily knock them from their perch. Cincinnati believes it is in the same category as Louisville and Syracuse and above Pitt, Georgetown and Notre Dame in the pecking order of Big East title contenders. Now the Bearcats have to prove it. The schedule didn't do them any favors since they go to Syracuse (Jan. 21) and Louisville (March 4) without a return game. Cincinnati will find out about itself early at Pitt (Dec. 31) and at home against Notre Dame (Jan. 7).
Final Four potential: The Bearcats have it, but I'd be surprised. The lack of a proven post player may cost them in trying to win four in the NCAA tournament. Their lack of focus at times could bite them in an early round.
Most impressive wins: Colorado and at Illinois State.
Biggest question answered: Leonard Washington has been a leader for the Cowboys despite all his issues, including a suspension last year. The Cowboys weren't sure who they could rely on early on but Washington has done everything asked of him so far.
National player of the year candidate: Washington is a Mountain West Conference Player of the Year candidate, but he won't be in the conversation for the national honor.
Difference-maker: Larry Nance Jr. The sophomore has played up in the big games for Wyoming, scoring 14 against Colorado, 19 in the win over Illinois State and 21 in a win over rival Denver. The Cowboys' staple has been their defense, as you'd expect from a Larry Shyatt-coached team, but it's their surprisingly-balanced offense that has been a pleasant plus.
What to watch for: Wyoming may be in the most balanced league in the country. It has to deal with two games against UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico, Colorado State and Boise State, let alone playing Nevada and Air Force. There are zero easy games on this schedule. To expect Wyoming to get through this without getting beaten up is unrealistic.
Final Four potential: No shot. But the Cowboys are going to the postseason. Shyatt has already put the Cowboys in the NIT conversation, barring a complete collapse. An NCAA berth is hardly out of the question if they can hold serve at the Arena Auditorium.
There was an unusual consensus. Every school was pleased.
The ACC had to adjust its scheduling format with the addition of Notre Dame, which could join anywhere from 2013 to 2015. The conference, committed to an 18-game schedule, had to lock in to two annual home-and-home series.
For a few schools, such as Virginia, there was nothing to ponder. The Cavaliers have two natural rivals in Virginia Tech and Maryland. Done.
"It makes sense geographically," UVa coach Tony Bennett said. "They've been our natural rivalries for years."
Boston College landed two tough opponents, but the Eagles couldn't have been happier to get two schools that will help fill the usually staid Conte Forum. BC will play Notre Dame and Syracuse twice every season.
"It's great for our alumni and fans," Boston College coach Steve Donahue said. "I'm sure excited about it."
Understandbly, no school got both Duke and North Carolina. That would be too cruel, and it would be too hard to pull off with two other schools in the state in Wake Forest and NC State. The ACC had to balance the four schools, and it did.
Duke gets UNC and Wake Forest. NC State got UNC and Wake. Wake Forest got Duke and NC State. And of course that means Carolina got Duke and NC State, which based on the current trajectory of the four schools, is the toughest slate among the schools in North Carolina.
"I loved it," NC State coach Mark Gottfried said. "They got it right."
Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman, who is the 2014 chair of the men's basketball selection committee and understands the importance of getting quality teams on the schedule, said "playing two in-state rivals is the best scenario for us."
ACC associate commissioner Karl Hicks, who oversees basketball and scheduling in particular, said the majority of the matchups simply made sense.
The most intriguing issue was what to do with Notre Dame's second rivalry after Boston College. The Irish and Georgia Tech were paired up by process of elimination. Hicks said the schools have a rivalry in football, but not in basketball.
"Notre Dame has a lot of alumni in urban areas," Hicks said. "Maryland was a better fit with the partners they had [Pitt and Virginia]. Washington, D.C., would have been a good place [for Notre Dame], but Maryland's partners fit. Georgia Tech was the next one that made the most sense."
ND coach Mike Brey said it worked for him since he wanted to create new rivalries and, "I love Atlanta."
Tech coach Brian Gregory knew the Yellow Jackets would get Clemson as one rival and was overjoyed that the Irish were the other.
"I think it's great for us," Gregory said. "These are two great academic schools with great traditions. I think it will turn into a great rivalry."
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Pitt and Virginia are strong defensive teams which should provide four gritty games for the Terps every season. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon had no issue with Maryland and Syracuse as his school's natural rivals, saying that he expected as much based on geography.
The rest of the 14 games on the schedule will include two more home-and-home opponents (which will rotate every year) and five home and five road games that make up the other 10.
The other set partners are:
Clemson: Florida State and Georgia Tech
Florida State: Clemson and Miami
Miami: Florida State and Virginia Tech
Syracuse: Boston College and Pitt
Virginia Tech: Miami and Virginia
Hicks said the Miami-Virginia Tech series marries two former Big East rivals. Syracuse's two partners are also former Big East foes. Clemson and Florida State got natural regional rivals.
"I'm not bent out of shape one way or another," said Florida State's Leonard Hamilton, who added he wasn't against going to 20 league games. "I like the challenge night in and night out of 18 hard-nosed games."
What the two-team partner lists and the reaction proves is that a 16th team in men's basketball doesn't seem necessary. ACC commissioner John Swofford said the ACC isn't going to go to 16, and frankly, there's really no need.
Duke and the NCAA each told ESPN.com this week that they are working together to get as much information as possible on the Lance Thomas situation. Thomas, a starter on the Blue Devils' 2010 national championship team, is being sued by a New York jeweler for not paying the balance of what he owes after buying $100,000 in custom jewelry that season.
But what remains to be seen is how effective Duke and the NCAA will be in finding out how the then-senior forward was able to make a $30,000 down payment and secure $67,800 in credit for the remaining balance.
Stu Brown, counsel and co-chair of Ice Miller LLP's collegiate sports practice group, has analyzed the suit and what potentially lies ahead. Brown has represented a number of coaches in NCAA infractions enforcement processes and is well versed in the rule book and how the NCAA typically tracks down the information it needs to resolve such cases.
• Duke and the NCAA will need to determine where the $30,000 cash deposit for the jewelry came from. Brown said the explanation could be very simple but -- fair or not -- "in the current climate the investigative presumption is going to be [from an] agent/runner," Brown said. "The NCAA is going to want to see financial documents to verify any exculpatory explanation."
• According to Brown, the second issue the NCAA must consider is whether the remaining $67,000-plus in credit from the store was "linked to Thomas' athletic status or backed by an impermissible third party." Said Brown, "In that regard, did Thomas think he was getting a special deal?" NCAA rules regarding amateurism prohibit athletes from receiving benefits that aren't available to all students.
• Brown expects Duke and the NCAA to work in concert on the investigation so that there is no perception of special privilege being given to the ACC program. The problem -- for both the NCAA and Duke -- is that only two sources can answer the first two questions: Thomas and the jewelry store's owner. What happens if neither of them is willing to speak? Since Thomas is no longer under the NCAA's jurisdiction, he is not required to talk to the organization. And since the NCAA does not have subpoena power, Rafaello & Co. cannot be forced to talk, either.
• Brown said that Duke will need to demonstrate that it is trying to get Thomas, 24, to cooperate. If there are legitimate explanations for how he produced the money, then Thomas' timely cooperation could put the matter to rest quickly. If not, "then the best outcome for Duke is for Thomas and the store to reach a settlement with mutual confidentiality clauses and for neither party to talk with Duke or the NCAA," Brown said.
• The quickest time frame for the matter to be resolved, according to Brown, is eight to 10 weeks -- and only then if "the first round of interviews are agreed to, Thomas has legit explanations, documents are available to support Thomas, no agent issues exist, and the case is essentially dismissed at that point," he said.
• If the owner of Rafaello & Co. does concede that a third party guaranteed payment for Thomas, then the NCAA would initiate an additional investigation and move toward a full-blown committee on infractions hearing and summary disposition. The resolution would then take much longer.
• Brown said that any eligibility issues or potential vacating of wins would be tied to when the violation -- if there was one -- took place. It has been reported that the jewelry was purchased after Duke played Gonzaga on Dec. 19, 2009, in New York. The Blue Devils won 26 games with Thomas in the lineup after the Gonzaga game, including the 2010 national title. This would only be an issue of coach control, however, said Brown, if any members of Duke's staff saw Thomas wearing jewelry in 2010 and didn't question it. Of course, this is all theoretical at this point. The case is far from the point where any sanctions would even be discussed.
Remember when it was popular to assume the Blue Devils would take a hit with Coach K so involved in international basketball after taking the assignment in 2006?
Well, that fear never really materialized. Duke associate head coach Chris Collins is one of three assistant coaches with the team, along with fellow Blue Devils associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski and Syracuse assistant/coach-in-waiting Mike Hopkins.
Prior to beginning the first meeting Thursday before Friday's start of the Olympic team's minicamp in Las Vegas, Collins answered five key questions relating to Krzyzewski's involvement with the national team.
1. What has it done to Krzyzewski's career?
"It has invigorated him,'' Collins said. "Everyone thought it would wear him out. But the reverse occurred. It was a new challenge and to chase world championships and Olympic titles refreshed him. Initially everyone thought that having to coach two jobs would be difficult, but it has allowed him -- as he hits the last part of his career -- to be invigorated.''
2. What kind of impact has it had on Duke?
On the court, the Blue Devils won a national title in 2010 and Krzyzewski became Division I's all-time winningest coach in 2011, passing mentor Bob Knight. Sure, Duke was stunned by 15-seed Lehigh this March, but this program still contends for ACC regular-season and tournament titles -- in addition to a top-two NCAA seed -- each and every year.
On the bench, the national team experience has had a tremendous impact on the staff.
"We've been around the USA staff and learned so much more about the game, especially internationally,'' Collins said. "It's the little things, and it has helped us run our offense, and also how we handle certain situations. We've learned from coach [Jim] Boeheim, [Mike] D'Antoni and [Nate] McMillan, as well as the Argentinian and Spanish teams. We've seen things around the world and in international competition that we may not have seen.''
3. How has it affected recruiting?
Duke hasn't dominated the recruiting scene, but the Devils aren't hurting for talent, either. Miles Plumlee was a first-round draft pick last month, and Austin Rivers went in the lottery. Duke just landed the top transfer guard in the country in Rodney Hood of Mississippi State, along with freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon, ranked 12th nationally in the Class of 2012.
"You can't say we've gotten one or two guys based on this, but it doesn't hurt to have the young guys see a connection with Coach and a player like Kobe or LeBron or Chris Paul or Kevin Durant. All of the young players want to reach that level. It's all been positive.''
4. How will having the Duke staff gone this month affect the current players, who can, under NCAA rules, now work out with the coaching staff if they're in summer school?
Not at all. Krzyzewski said Monday that he was going to watch and conduct a workout before he left. But his hiring of former VCU and Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel gives Duke an experienced hand running the program in Krzyzewski's absence. Collins and Wojciechowski won't be in Durham either, but Capel is more than capable of handling this by himself.
"Having a veteran team really helps a lot,'' Collins said. "Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly are seniors. Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston are juniors, so we have five upperclassmen. Jeff Capel and the rest of the staff there have great experience. They're all in good hands and it makes all of this a lot easier.''
5. What's the most significant aspect of the Duke coaches being involved in the Olympics?
Well, the easy answer would be that it helps increase Coach K's legacy with a world championship and a gold medal, with the chance for a second gold.
But there was a significant occurrence that came out of the Beijing Olympics -- one not discussed all that much. The gold medal in 2008 allowed the Collins family to finally have a gold medal in its home after one was taken away in 1972 by a controversial ending in the infamous Soviet Union-U.S. game in Munich.
One of the stars of that game was Chris' dad, Doug Collins, who buried two free throws with 3 seconds left on the clock to give the Americans a 50-49 lead. Chaos then ensued as the Soviet Union complained about a timeout that was called and ended up with multiple inbounds plays, and on the third inbounds the Soviets scored at the buzzer for the win.
Collins was back courtside for the Americans' gold-winning title in Beijing, but as a broadcaster for NBC Sports.
The IOC only gives Olympians gold medals, but the younger Collins said USA executive director Jerry Colangelo made gold-medal replicas for everyone on the staff.
"To me, it's the greatest gift of being involved,'' Collins said. "I gave the gold medal from 2008 to my dad. It's one of the proudest things I've done in my life because of what happened in '72.''
Collins said he was moved by the gesture of the team putting their gold medals around his father's neck in Beijing as a gesture. But he wanted to do it for keeps.
"They went through so much hurt, going through with such a commitment and then having the game swiped away from you,'' Collins said. "I've always said that if it weren't for all the funny stuff at the end of the game, my dad might be one of the greatest Olympic heroes for making those two free throws. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who made two pressure-packed free throws in that moment.
"He was robbed of that moment, and for us as a family not to have that medal in our house for this many years, it meant a lot to help him get it. I wasn't an elite player where I was going to be considered. The only chance was to be a part of the staff and I have for two Olympics and two world championships. It's been incredible and I owe it all to [Coach K] to be associated with him, making the decision to play for him and to see how it all turned out. It's been once in a lifetime.''
The players who won gold -- the majority of whom are set to begin their freshman seasons -- will benefit from the competition and the spirited workouts and playing for Florida's Billy Donovan, Gonzaga's Mark Few and VCU's Shaka Smart.
The U.S. didn't lose a game in the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships and won by an average of 39 points, including beating host Brazil twice.
High schooler Julius Randle, who still has another year at Prestonwood Christian Academy in McKinney, Texas, led the Americans in scoring at 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds a game.
Tennessee sophomore-to-be Jarnell Stokes was second at 14 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.
I asked Donovan for five players he is convinced will have a major impact on their respective teams during their first college seasons.
He didn't hesitate on the first name (tourney averages in parentheses). Marcus Smart, 6-foot-3, SG, Oklahoma State (7.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg): "I have not been around a player in a long, long time that is as good a competitor. He can shoot the ball better (1-of-10 on 3-pointers), but he's unselfish and an unbelievable leader. He was absolutely terrific. He's a terrific player. He's special. He has the internal qualities to me.''
Jerami Grant, 6-7, SF, Syracuse (5.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg): "He didn't shoot very well (7-of-25), but he'll end up being a Kris Joseph or Wesley Johnson for Syracuse in time. He's rangy, long and can play two different positions. His upside may be greater than anyone else on the team. He's so long and athletic. Once he knocks down shots he'll be really special.''
Sam Dekker, 6-7, SF, Wisconsin (5 ppg, 2.5 rpg): "He was hurt, ended up spraining his ankle, and then someone stepped on his toe and that had to be drained. He was never quite healthy. But he's a warrior. He loves to play. He wants to win. I think he's a really good player. He takes some crazy shots. I just wish I could have coached him. He's going to be terrific.''
Shaq Goodwin, 6-8, PF, Memphis (12.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg): "He's got a chance. He scored 30 points in our first game. He's got a great feel for how to play. He's got a big body. He needs to be a bit more serious. But he played pretty well while he was there. He did a nice job for us.''
James Robinson, 6-3, PG, Pittsburgh (4.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg): "We weren't sure we were going to keep him. We cut the team from 25 to 14 and then kept guys around to 12. He was originally on the outside looking in. But once we started practicing we saw that he's a winner and a great role guy. He's a typical Pitt player. Jamie [Dixon] will love coaching him. I'm not sure of his impact on the team, but people will say, 'Where did this guy come from?' The kid is a winner. I liked coaching him. He was the same guy every day.''
He said Purvis is an exceptional talent but can get too wrapped up in scoring at times. He's an exceptional athlete, according to Donovan, very physical and a really good player, but needs to check the expectations a bit. Donovan said Sulaimon (10 ppg, 3.4 rpg) needs to avoid feeling too much of the natural pressure that comes with being a highly touted Duke recruit. He said he loved Sulaimon's work ethic and enjoyed coaching him but he just needs to chill a bit.
The Beavers nabbed the 6-foot-6 forward from Compton, Calif., to give them a much-needed body up front who has length and athleticism.
"After Jared stayed in the draft, [Robbins] will fit in perfectly with us like the guys that we've been recruiting of late," coach Craig Robinson said. "For us to get Victor, the planets had to be aligned. We were aware of him, but not heavily recruiting him and hadn't any big plans to push unless Jared was gone for good."
Cunningham made up his mind before April 10, thus allowing the Beavers to get heavily involved in recruiting Robbins.
Robbins is Exhibit A for the coaches in the ACC who support the April 10 draft deadline. Those coaches initially pushed for the early-entry draft rule of May 8 and then again last year, when the legislation came through to set a unilateral NCAA deadline of April 10.
The NBA still respects only one deadline, which is its own on April 29. Baylor's Quincy Miller announced he was returning to Baylor by the April 10 deadline but then changed his mind before April 29 for the NBA. He couldn't go back to Baylor, but he was eligible for the NBA draft. Maryland's Terrell Stoglin, who was ultimately banned for a year by the Terps for a violation of team rules, didn't say anything by the April 10 deadline but declared by April 29.
The purpose of the April 10 deadline was to give college coaches more time to fill scholarships used by early entrants. But it is a selfish rule for the college coaches to not allow the underclassmen to test the draft process anymore. If they declare by April 29, they are no longer an amateur in the eyes of the NCAA.
"It's possible that we might not have gotten him if the deadline were April 29," Robinson said. "Knowing in the middle of April helps us just like knowing in March would help us. The earlier that we know the better it is."
"It worked out exactly how the rule is planned to," Wright said. "Those two made decisions that allowed us to get involved with two transfers [who] we probably wouldn't have taken if we had those two back."
Connecticut was in a unique situation. The Huskies, who are banned from the 2013 postseason for poor APR scores, lost Alex Oriakhi to Missouri and saw two other big men -- Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley -- transfer. In addition, they lost Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond to the draft.
Adding 6-10 Phillip Nolan in the spring was a result of all the available roster spots. UConn assistant coach Kevin Ollie said that the Huskies offered playing time, and Nolan jumped at the chance. But the early entries definitely did open up a void that the Huskies saw a need to fill.
Kentucky knew it was going to be replacing early entrants during the season. Picking up Nerlens Noel late to fill Anthony Davis' spot was planned. It wasn't a result of any early deadline or Davis' inability to test the draft process.
The same is true for Duke. The Blue Devils were recruiting 6-7 Amile Jefferson, even before Austin Rivers decided to leave early for the NBA draft. An early-entry deadline had no bearing on the Blue Devils' spring recruiting.
"It had nothing to do with the NBA draft," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We wanted him on our roster no matter what. He's a great get and a perfect fit for Duke. He certainly solidifies our team and makes our team more athletic."
Krzyzewski added that Duke isn't in a position to suddenly add players late (although the Blue Devils were recruiting transfers like Oriakhi and Central Michigan's Trey Zeigler, who went to Pitt).
"It's pretty tough for us to do it here," Krzyzewski said of adding late signees who weren't recruited until April.
Robbins is a huge addition to Oregon State. But don't think Robinson is in favor of preventing underclassmen from working out for teams to see if they'll be drafted in the first or second round.
"I think we should do what's best for the student athletes," Robinson said. "If they can test the market to see where they stood, then they'd have a more realistic opinion of their talents, and we would have an easier job of keeping them in school."
Robinson said that he would favor a more flexible approach/rule from the NCAA.
"You should be able to come back to your school and finish your eligibility," said Robinson in regard to a player's poor draft status or being undrafted. The latter was once a rule but has since been removed by the NCAA (assuming the player doesn't sign with an agent). "I still think we're in the business of educating kids and getting them college degrees. We would wait to see where Jared got drafted. We would love to have him back. If he didn't [come back] we would have a list of guys to jump on. I think everyone should have a chance to come back one time as a student-athlete."
That was once the rule, as late as two seasons ago.
And like Robinson, Wright would like one date instead of two.
Of course, the early date means the coaches benefit and the players don't. But that's only if they can find a player who fits their program. If it's just a warm body to fill a spot, it won't matter much. If it's a player who will actually contribute and make a difference, it will be a success.
Don't expect the Oregon State and Villanova pickups to replace the pro-level talent that's gone. And ultimately that's the reality: Having a unilateral early-entry date may get the school a player to fill the spot, but he's not going to be a star who can replace the production that's left. If it was just about filling the roster and adding length, size or athleticism, it has the potential to be deemed a modest success once in a while for a few schools.