SAN ANTONIO, Texas — NCAA president Myles Brand and NBA commissioner David Stern announced an unprecedented collaboration among numerous and often competing interests to improve the state of youth basketball nationally.
"Youth basketball has problems," Brand said Monday, referring especially to summer programs that have drawn unsavory elements such as agents.
"We understand, and the NCAA understands in particular, that we can't solve these problems through regulation alone or even as a major element. The NCAA, in fact, tried to do that over a decade ago by regulating the interaction, the access, that our coaches had to the young men. That didn't work. Maybe it exacerbated the problem. We won't go back to that approach. The problems must be solved in the marketplace."
After more than two years of conversations, the NCAA, the NBA and the other main stakeholders in the sport (Nike, Adidas, the National Federation of High School Associations, USA Basketball, AAU basketball, the men's and women's basketball coaches associations) will start a company that will focus on:
• Developing and launching a Web site and social network for youth basketball players and their families, helping them make better informed decisions and better choices (think taking money from a third party to go to a particular school and then sign with a particular agent).
• Educating the players on the ideas of teamwork and not selfishness.
• Educating and certifying coaches and referees.
• Establishing national standards for youth competition and addressing health concerns.
"The end product will be we are going to work to develop both the on-the-court and the off-the-court skills of young players," Stern said.
The NCAA and NBA will each put up $15-million over five years to start, but there will be more needed from other partners before it can be self-sustaining. Still, other details are sketchy at best. But there will be a physical site (somewhere), a CEO (a basketball person, a business person or a big-picture person …) and a staff (of some size).
"We're taking baby steps here," Stern said. "This is an important first step."
"It is very concrete, substantial activity with a business plan that took us two years to develop," Brand said.
WIN FOR THE LEAGUE: The Big 12, which formed in 1996, earned its first NCAA men's basketball title when Kansas won Monday. In that time, the SEC had four (including Florida twice), the ACC had three, the Big East had three, and the Big Ten and Pac-10 had one each.
"If you watched us play, you watched Texas play, the four other teams that made the tournament this year, our league's really good; really good," Kansas coach Bill Self said before Monday's finale. "But I think nationally, in order to really garner the respect that a league deserves, you've got to cut down the nets."
Kansas did that for the Big 12.
LEARNING GROUND: Memphis coach John Calipari and Self got their collegiate coaching starts, as humble as they were, as graduate assistants at Kansas.
"I loved it," said Calipari, who among other duties manned the training table and served peas or corn. "(I'd ask players), 'What would you like? I'll be there early for practice if you want to do some extra shooting. Would you like peas or corn?' But it was the greatest time of my life."
He not only spent all his time in the basketball office learning the game, he met his future wife there.
Self can relate. He started the year Calipari left for a job at Pittsburgh in 1985 and had "much more meaningful" jobs than serving veggies.
Self said he had the huge responsibility of renting out the correct bowling lanes on game days if the team had bowled there and played well the previous game because coach Larry Brown's "very, very superstitious." "I don't know if I could have had more fun than what I had that grad assistant year in Lawrence."
EYES OF TEXAS …: After Monday's game, Memphis has a 14-3 mark in NCAA Tournament games played in Texas.
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