Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why signing the best players makes sense, even if they're only with you a short time

Lute Olson is apparently one college coach who's had it with guys playing one season of college ball before bolting to the NBA.

According to an article in Friday's LA Times, Olson, a Hall of Fame coach with 35 years of college coaching experience, he simply won't recruit players who are only going to play for him for a single season.

Some of Olson's peers won't be taking the same move. Syracuse's Jim Beoheim, for example, said, "You try to get the best 11 players you can."

And Minnesota's Tubby Smith said, "Everybody wants an opportunity to coach a great player. Even if it's for one year, they can do a lot for you."

USC's Tim Floyd added: "O.J. Mayo did a lot for our program and we would do it again."

It's an interesting discussion and something that I faced when coaching in the CBA. There were some coaches who preferred to sign players who wouldn't likely be called up to the NBA, but were good enough to play on the minor league level. This way, they had the same core roster for the entire season.

I had the exact opposite philosophy. I wanted as many players who would get called up as possible. In fact, one season, the NBA called up six of our players. In seven seasons in the minors, we had 24 guys called up by NBA clubs.

My thinking was that guys would play harder and would be more committed if they thought our organization wanted them and would help them get called up. Thankfully, our owner agreed. [From his perspective, it also provided our fans an opportunity to watch NBA-quality players perform, which was a key factor in marketing the team.]

Of course, it was more work for us as a staff to find quality replacements once guys were called up, but that's what we signed on for. And, for me, that constant search for NBA-caliber talent was one thing that made my time in the minor leagues really challenging.