Sean Kearney joins Colorado staff in “player development” role

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After spending three years away from the game in a coaching role, former longtime Notre Dame assistant and Holy Cross head coach Sean Kearney has accepted a position with the University of Colorado as the “director of player development.” Kearney joins the Buffaloes who are coming off of back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances under head coach Tad Boyle.

A lifelong assistant who spent nine years under Mike Brey at Notre Dame, Kearney finally caught his break in the summer of 2009 when he was hired at Holy Cross to take over for longtime coach Ralph Willard. In his only season as head coach, Kearney led the Crusaders to a 9-22 mark (5-9 in the Patriot League) after being selected to win the league in the preseason poll. Then athletic director Dick Regan decided to fire Kearney after the disappointing season, explaining: “This is an affirmation of how important basketball is at Holy Cross.”

Very well-liked and respected in the coaching community, Regan took a lot of heat for pulling the trigger after just one sub-par season — even Kentucky gave Billy Gillispie two years, and Holy Cross is far from Kentucky. Kearney has remained relevant in the game  serving as an analyst for ESPN, doing color commentary for Notre Dame radio, and has done officiating evaluations for the Big Ten Conference. According to TimesCall.com, Kearney has also visited professional and college teams to study different coaches and their practices methods, including the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, Purdue, Michigan State, Butler, Temple, Villanova, St. Joe’s, and Notre Dame.

While Kearney may not have been ready to lead a program of his own — not all assistants are meant to escalate their career to the role of a head coach — this is something that perhaps he recognized. Like all players and coaches, Kearney has worked at refining his craft during his time away from coaching. “It’s just been going around and watching other coaches and growing my game as a coach and learning from some different guys,” he said.

For the time being, Kearney will not have any recruiting responsibilities as he is not an assistant coach, but Boyle believes that his extensive rolodex will help Colorado on the recruiting trail.

As “director of player development,” it is not entirely clear what this role entails. Based upon Kearney’s explanation, his role with the program is open-ended:

“I’m so excited to get back on a staff with good people and good coaches that I really don’t care what my duties or responsibilities are. If you look at my background, I’m a Division III basketball player, and actually not a very good one. So I’ve played and coached at almost every level. I’m thrilled to be back on a wonderful staff in a program that continues to be on the upswing. Whatever responsibilities coach wants to give me, I’ll be happy to have.

Prior to Notre Dame, Kearney spent time at Delaware and Providence. It was at Providence in 1986-87 where his coaching career was jump-started after working alongside coaches like Rick Pitino, Jeff Van Gundy, and Herb Sendek, and helping to coach a young point guard named Billy Donovan all the way to the Final Four.

Nearly 30 years later, Kearney is back on the bench. Boyle believes that there may be an opportunity for Kearney to transition into an assistant coaching role in a season or two as current assistants Jean Prioleau and Mike Rohn are primed to become head coaches. Boyle explained, “That’s why I wanted someone with experience, so if that happens, the transition will be smooth.”

Kearney is excited to be on board, and why shouldn’t he be with a program that is on a serious upswing?

“I think I can help these guys. I have great respect for what they’ve done, but I think I will be able to help, too.”

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

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Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

Oakland’s Greg Kampe hosting charity golf event with big-name coaches

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Oakland head coach Greg Kampe hosted a successful charity event for cancer research two years ago by allowing people to bid online to play a round of golf with some of college basketball’s best coaches.

Kampe is back again this year as he’s hoping to eventually raise $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

According to a report from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, Kampe has 11 high-profile names that fans can play with this year.

  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  • Frank Martin, South Carolina
  • Rick Barnes, Tennessee
  • Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
  • Chris Holtmann, Butler
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
  • Greg Kampe, Oakland
  • Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
  • Steve Lavin
  • Fran Fraschilla
  • Bill Raftery

Fans can find more details about the auctions and all of the details here.

The minimum bid is $15,000 per coach. A “buy now” bid of $24,000 is also available.

Each round includes the following, according to the event’s website:

Up for auction will be 11 spectacular packages, featuring a private dinner with elite basketball coaches and VIPs, a one night stay at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Sunday, June 4, and an afternoon of golf on Monday, June 5 at Oakland Hills Country Club on the South Course. The winning bidders and their two guests will round out the foursomes with their selected VIP: Rick Barnes, Mick Cronin, Fran Fraschilla, Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo, Greg Kampe, Steve Lavin, Frank Martin, Bill Raftery, Stan Van Gundy, or Kevin Willard.

There are a lot of great selections to choose from for this sort of thing, but I can’t imagine a better afternoon than playing golf with Bill Raftery and a few friends. There are some other tempting choices on this list, but that’s the one I would have to jump at.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.