As he has a tendency to do when he gets in the right mood, Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com took a hatchet to SMU’s decision to hire Larry Brown over the weekend.
Doyel’s biggest issue is that Brown set foot on campus and immediately started thinning out the Mustang’s roster. Three rising-sophomore forwards were told that their scholarships were not going to be renewed. The same thing happened to Jeremiah Samarrippas, a rising junior that not only started at the point during his first two seasons with the Mustangs but was also a team captain.
As an isolated incident, I don’t have a problem with this decision.
Simply put, these four players got cut. It happens, in every sport and at every level once you get past the age where everyone is required to play the same amount. As sports get more competitive at a higher level, fewer people are going to be able to play. If you’re not good enough, you get cut.
It sucks. I know. I’ve been there. I’m sure a lot of you have as well. But this is Division I basketball, and Jeremiah Samirrippas and his three former teammates are big boys. They’ll be able to deal with the disappointment and continue his basketball career somewhere else. If you can earn a scholarship to SMU, you’ll be able to go to college for free at a lower level as well. And it’s not like this is going to derail an NBA career; Samarrippas was the best of the group and he averaged 6.9 points and 4.2 assists for a 13-19 team.
Honestly, I don’t think that Brown did anything that wrong. When a coach takes over a program, he wants to coach players that he believes will excel in his system. Those four didn’t fit into that vision. Again, it sucks but it happens. And if you want to argue the academics angle, well, Doyel said it best himself: “as if college basketball players go to school to major in something other than basketball.”
No, the injustice here isn’t the fact that Brown told a third of his roster to pack their bags.
The injustice is that he is allowed to while, at the same time, being able to a) leave SMU whenever he decides he is done coaching the Mustangs and b) tell any player that decides they don’t want to play for Brown where they can and cannot transfer to.
Brown’s not alone, either. Any coach in the country can tell any player on his roster that their scholarship won’t be renewed the next season. Much has been made about the record number of transfers at the Division I level the past couple of years, but have you ever stopped to think about just how many of them were the result of a coach cutting ties?
That’s why so many people have made such a fuss about the actions of Bo Ryan and Phil Martelli and why the AD’s at Tulsa and FIU have come under such fire.
It’s unfair that a player’s former school has such influence in determining where that kid (and yes, they are still kids) will continue his career.
But it’s downright egregious that they have that much influence while simultaneously being able to kick the kid to the curb if he doesn’t perform and take off for a better job when it comes along.
If coaches were forced to give players four- or five-year scholarships — if they couldn’t kick a player out of the program on a whim — would we be as upset about head coaches restricting transfer releases?