(This is a weekly segment to discuss Redick’s great weekly podcasts, and they’ll from now on be labeled as “NJJP” which stands for, you guessed it, New JJ Podcast.)
So, I’ll be real with you. Ever since the Clippers got Chris Paul, my interest in college basketball dropped considerably. I use to keep an eye on the college game because the Clippers, more often than not, had a play in the draft and were looking for a top pick. I remember watching a handful of Oklahoma Sooner games when Blake Griffin was the prospective #1 pick, I even ended up watching a nationally televised game when he didn’t play and uttered the phrase “Hey that Willie Warren might be a decent pro.” In truth, it’s always been very difficult for me to assess college basketball players unless they were just unbelievably talented like Griffin. Now I mostly catch the tourney, and usually the tail end of the tourney. That aside, the college game is fascinating, and often for reasons that go beyond the product you see on the floor. Jay Bilas, known mostly as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, dove into that with J.J. Redick in this week’s Vertical Podcast with JJ.
JJ and Bilas have an obvious bond, and it is that the two are products of Duke basketball and Mike Krzyzewski, otherwise known as Coach K. Redick met Bilas very quickly as a freshman in Duke, and the two traded stories about Coach K, and how he’s evolved as a coach. They also talked about Coach K’s involvement in USA men’s basketball. Coach K has always been an intriguing figure for me.. I’ve appreciated his coaching from a distance, watching Duke basketball has always felt different than watching even other highly touted programs in NCAA. There’s always been a subtle feeling that Coach K’s teams knew their gameplans better than most teams, and it’s that sort of organization that always kept them in games regardless of who was actually on the team. It’s always been said that college basketball is more of a coach’s game while NBA basketball is more of a player’s game. So what does that mean of Coach K? How good of a coach is he? For my money, he’s a damn good one, but it’s been hard for me to properly gauge without seeing him in the NBA. It’s most likely because the NBA is the offshoot of basketball I properly follow, but I was very interested in the prospect of Coach K possibly coming to the NBA, even if it was during that period when he was rumored to coach the Lakers.
The most interesting point of conversation in this pod was the NCAA and the fact that athletes don’t get paid in what is now a very rich product. A valid point that Redick made was the fact that his jerseys were selling like hotcakes for maybe 100 bucks a jersey, but if he wanted to sign some of those jerseys and make a profit out of it that would be considered a violation. Bilas agreed that it’s ridiculous, and a lot of the old school coaches who seemingly have something against it turn a blind eye at the fact that they’re making a boatload of money as a coach while the players they push make nothing. It seems like something is going to crack in this conversation, and the NCAA will have to address it. I just wonder how it will happen. The more time that goes, the more publicity it will get.
Bilas also talked a bit about his music taste and how he’s evolved as an analyst of college players. He had some interesting things to say about his criticisms of players like Josh Smith and DeMarcus Cousins, and the proper way to go about saying those things about those players on national TV. Honestly, while draft analysis can be informing, all these descriptions of players just become a huge blur to me while I’m watching the draft. I’m sure the analysts are learned, but I’m usually just waiting for trades or for the Clippers to draft. I would be bored out of my mind if the draft was solely about an analyst’s takes on players I’ve never watched play.
What do you think of the chat these two had? What do you think of Coach K, and his place in basketball coaching history? Does he place as an all-timer for you in the coaching annals, or is the fact that he hasn’t coached the pros make him an afterthought? How do you think is the best way for NCAA players to see some sort of earning from the product they put on the floor? Is it unfair that someone like JJ couldn’t make any money despite the fact that he was a national draw whenever his team played? Or is it fair, and should it just be considered a branch of the education they’re paying for? Lots of cool stuff on this pod, even for people looking at the college game very casually.