On its face, the story of a father who is the director of a program's basketball operations not receiving a contract extension and leaving the program with his skilled sophomore son in tow would have all the tell-tale signs of an unseemly recruiting gambit gone wrong. Before the NCAA took steps in recent years to halt the practice, college hoops recruiting went through a phrase in which a job for a family member or high school coach was often the price a college had to pay for that recruit's services.
When you hear that a spurned director of basketball operations -- which is not a particularly important position anyway, at least relatively speaking -- decided to take his son and go home, the initial assumption is that somewhere along the line, a promise went unfulfilled.
That is not the case here. First of all, that sort of under-the-table quid pro quo is no longer allowed. But even if it were, Michael Young isn't some random family member or hanger-on; he's a former member of Houston's greatest-ever team, Phi Slama Jama, and he's spent the past 16 years serving Houston in various capacities, including the past seven as the director of basketball operations.
But Young, a program legend and tenured staff member, is leaving Houston. His son, sophomore Joseph Young, is coming with him. So what happened?
The Houston Chronicle explains: Young's contract as director of basketball operations expired Friday. When he was offered a different, more ceremonial position -- a "community service role within the UH athletic department," as the Chron phrases it -- Young decided he didn't much feel like sticking around where he wasn't wanted:
"James Dickey doesn't want me to be part of his coaching staff anymore," Young said. "He wanted to go in another direction. I was offered an alternative position. I refused it, and I've moved on from the University of Houston."
[...] "I will always be a Cougar, but I'm disappointed," Young said.
Houston coach James Dickey released a statement to the Chronicle saying Young "was offered, accepted and signed a new contract earlier this week at the same compensation beginning June 1 with new responsibilities inside the athletics department." Apparently there is some disagreement over this point. I'm not exactly sure how that happens, but it did, and the upshot is that the elder Young will be leaving with his son in tow:
"Joseph is dealing with it fine," Young said to the Chronicle. "He made his decision, and I guess he loves his dad more than he loves the University of Houston. He made a statement to me that he can't play for a coach that doesn't want his dad to be a part of the staff."
The loss will be felt immediately on the court. Rising junior Joseph Young was one of the true bright spots of Houston's otherwise forgettable 2012-13 season. He averaged 18.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, and he was extremely efficient to boot, shooting 42 percent from 3 and 87.5 percent from the free throw line. He finished with a 124.0 offensive rating on 22.7 percent usage, one of the best 30 marks at that usage tier in the country. He was really good. And now, after a not-small ordeal to get Young to Houston in the first place, he is moving on.
The good news for Houston is that Danrad "Chicken" Knowles, who was academically ineligible last season, will be entering the lineup as a redshirt freshman. Knowles was a top-50-ish player in the class of 2012 and, along with Danuel House (who had a solid freshman campaign in 2012-13), the lynchpins of an impressive recruiting haul designed to put Houston on the map in time for its move to the
Big East American Athletic Conference this fall. With Knowles and House and effective forward TaShawn Thomas, Dickey will have a really interesting group of forwards to throw at opposing AAC defenses.
But none are a replacement for the efficient perimeter scoring Young brought to the team. Losing him hurts. Losing him over the fifth-most important job on a given coach's staff must be an especially hard pill for UH fans to swallow. Why risk it, you know?