Kentucky coach John Calipari said Monday he'd be fine if the NBA changed the rules to allow high school players to go directly to the NBA as long as the league was prepared to pay them them fairly and give them time to develop.
Calipari, speaking on the SEC coaches' summer teleconference, said he's in favor of the "baseball rule," referring to Major League Baseball's rules that allow a player from high school to go to the pros or go to college and then not be eligible to be drafted until after his junior season.
"I'm good with the baseball rule. As long as they're going directly to the NBA, they're paying them what they deserve to be paid and then it's on them to look after these kids and give them a gap year if they think they can do that in the NBA," he said.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, appearing on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike last week, also said he'd be in favor of a rule that mirrors that of baseball.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during the NBA Finals that the "one-and-done" rule was "not working for anyone" in either the professional or college ranks and that "we all agree that we need to make a change." He said the NBA favors raising the age to 20, while the union wants to lower the minimum age to 18.
Calipari said that if the NBA were to lower the minimum age requirement from 19, it would need to consider how it would affect the players who bypass college. He said he was wary at first that raising the age limit was going to "lock out a whole group of kids" but it has had the opposite effect.
"Very rarely do I speak highly of the NCAA, but in this case what it did is challenged a generation of kids to do better academically, to be on point, to get themselves where they need to go. The NCAA this year reported we had the highest graduation rate in men's basketball for African-Americans ever. EVER," he said.
Calipari pointed out that Kentucky gives its recruits lifetime scholarships and said three to four of his players have taken advantage of that opportunity.
He said if the NBA lowers its age limit with the intention of sending players to the D-League (recently rebranded to the G League), it would be a misguided plan.
"Let's not look back a generation from now and say well we did this because we want these kids better prepared to play basketball, we did this because we're trying to eke out this and this and have more control over our 'assets,' he said. "We think we can do a better job of teaching when you're talking about a 17-year-old leaving his bed in his home with his mother who is waking him up and walking into a man's world right now. Or you go to college and get a gap year, maybe you stay two years.
"Whatever we do, I'll be on record, if we're trying to get kids to go the D-League and it's a baseball rule and they're going to get $20 million contracts right out of high school and the NBA thinks they can deal with that, I'm good. I'm fine. If they're trying to get high school kids to go to the D-League, I will be shouting from mountaintops saying what is this going to do to a generation of kids who say, 'all right, I'm going to do this,' you get one or two years to make it and now you're out without any opportunities. Who's taking care of those kids now?"
Calipari, who coached in the NBA with the Nets, said he prepares all of his short-term recruits for life as a professional.
"I've had now, 20-some lottery picks and every one of them has gotten to a second contract because they have been prepared to go in the league and do well. And I would say this, it's a coach's choice to recruit these kind of kids," he said.
If a coach is opposed to the "one-and-done rule," Calipari's message is: "Don't recruit them. Just don't recruit them. 'I want four-year guys.' Then recruit four-year guys. I don't understand what the issue is."
"If you're old school and you've been following college basketball and you liked it as kids staying in school four years, and all that, then you'd probably say this has ruined what my game used to look like. Well the world has changed. It's changed in the NBA, it's changed in Europe, the game has changed the world has changed," he said."