NBA no longer seen as be-all, end-all

July, 6, 2011
The Cleveland Cavaliers made a highly publicized play for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in June 2010, but Izzo turned down a lucrative financial offer to stay with the Spartans.

A year later, Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn asked about Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. But it's not going any further than that initial inquiry. Romar isn't heading to Minneapolis.

Will that be the only flirtation with a college coach in the NBA this offseason? Have we entered an era when college coaches may not venture into the NBA because for the high-level coaches, the money won't be much of a difference?


"If it's based on money, I'm not sure coaches will make that transition, especially if they like where they are," Romar said. "The guys that make that type of NBA money are already established."

It seems NBA teams are now seeking the coaches who have been players or assistants such as Mark Jackson or Dwane Casey.

"I just don't see it happening," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of elite college coaches making the jump. "I think the NBA will continue to recycle guys unless it's a former college guy like Kelvin Sampson."

Sampson has been an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and was recently interviewed by the Pistons. He's gone the assistant route after running afoul of NCAA rules at Oklahoma and Indiana.

"Once you take the top guys out, guys like Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, the average salary is much more comparable to the college coaches," said Duke associate coach Chris Collins, whose father, Doug, is the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Elite college coaches like John Calipari, Billy Donovan and Mike Krzyzewski are already making more than $3-4 million per year.

"To do it, it has to be that you want to challenge yourself in something new," Collins said. "Financially, coaches like Lon Kruger and some of those other guys, it was a such a big-money deal it was hard to say no. Mike Montgomery, did it and it was something he couldn't turn down."

Leonard Hamilton was in a similar situation when Michael Jordan plucked him from Miami to coach the Washington Wizards. Hamilton got a significant payday but was fired, then landed back in Florida, this time coaching Florida State.

"The trend is to go find a coach that has a relationship with the players," Hamilton said. "But I'm not so sure it won't come back again. The rules are changing with allowing zone, and teams aren't running as many sets."

Still, Hamilton said there will be coaches who see the allure of coaching in the NBA regardless of the financial terms that may be similar.

"A lot of coaches have the aspiration to coach at the highest level," Hamilton said. "If they had the opportunity, I think most coaches, regardless of pay, would welcome it. I think it will change in the near future where college coaches will get the chance again."

A few more news and notes ...

• The schedules for the 2011-12 season are starting to shape up, including in the Hoosier State. As previously announced, Butler will play Purdue, and Indiana will take on Notre Dame at an event at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. But the Bulldogs also will play at Indiana after the two schools agreed to be part of a multiteam event during which they'll play three home games against weaker teams. Butler associate head coach Matthew Graves said the Bulldogs aren't in a traditional neutral-site tournament this season but will play in the Maui Invitational in 2012. Butler also signed a home-and-home series with Gonzaga beginning next season in Spokane with the Bulldogs getting the return game in 2012-13. Butler also will host Xavier and Louisville and travel to Stanford next season.

• Missouri coach Frank Haith is trying to offset a number of departures, as the Tigers have only three scholarship players for 2012-13. That's why he took on transfers Keion Bell (Pepperdine), George Goode (Louisville) and Earnest Ross (Auburn) and is now looking at Brian Oliver (Georgia Tech). Oliver is deciding among Penn State, Seton Hall and Missouri, according to a source.

• Former Arkansas sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke is down to Butler and Oklahoma for his new destination, according to a source. Clarke would have one season of eligibility remaining but must sit out next season.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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