Villanova’s basketball staff has undergone a restructuring.
Normally, coaching staff changes don’t require a post of more than a couple words, saying where the new assistant coach came from while stuffing in some quote from a press release by the head coach on why this new hire will lead them directly to a national title.
But Jay Wright’s decision to hire Martin is quite interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Martin coaches for DC’s Team Takeover, one of two powerhouse AAU programs in one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. And I’m sure the fact that Villanova is currently pursuing Josh Hart, a DC native and a kid that plays for Team Takeover, had nothing what-so-ever to do with Wright’s decision to bring Martin aboard.
“I like Villanova’s coaching staff,” 2013 Sidwell Friends guard Josh Hart told SNY.tv at the recent “Live in AC” event. “They seem kind of genuine and that kind of thing. And also my 16s coach I think is going to be at Villanova so that’s never a bad thing.
“I know I will be taken care of with him there.”
It’s become a bit of a hot topic in recent years. According to a story from Mark Gianotto of the Washington Post, 13 coaches from the DC Assault program have become assistant coaches. One of those coaches is Dalonte Hill, who was hired at Kansas State because Bob Huggins knew Michael Beasley would come along with him and is now an assistant at Maryland. David Cox is responsible for three starters at Rutgers. Martin is the fourth Takeover guy to get a Division I coaching job. Kenny Johnson’s hiring at Indiana helped Tom Crean land a commitment from Stanford Robinson.
And it’s not just the DC area, either. Ben Howland hired Korey McCray of the Atlanta Celtics last June and has two Atlanta natives in this year’s recruiting class, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams.
This trend has, obviously, rubbed some people the wrong way. There is a stigma involved with being an AAU coach, three scarlet letters that mark you unscrupulous, money-hungry and incapable of coaching basketball. There are plenty of cases where that stereotype is true, but there are also good coaches on the AAU circuit. Don’t believe me? The DC Assault had former NBA head coach Eddie Jordan working for them in April. Former No. 1 pick Pervis Ellison has coached Philly’s Team Final in recent years.
The bigger problem, however, is the assumption that hiring an AAU coach as an assistant implies that there is something else — something straight out of the movie ‘Blue Chips’ — going on. While there are unquestionably situations where that is the case, the bottom line is that these AAU coaches are getting these jobs because of who they know, not what they know. Recruiting is all about connections, and, frankly, it’s much easier to hire a guy that already has connections with a group of talented recruits than to hope that the coach that is hired is able to build those friendships over time.*
(*For those that don’t remember, in 2010, the NCAA passed a rule that curbed some of these package deals. They implemented a rule that said a school couldn’t recruit a player that was associated with anyone hired to a non-coaching position. No more putting a player’s father on staff as a strength and conditioning coach, in other words. If you’re going to hire a coach for his connections, you have to hire him as one of your three assistants.)
By hiring a guy like Martin or Johnson or Hill, you get immediate results and, hopefully, an immediate infusion of talent.
It is a bit discomforting — when you step back and look at it, grown men are relying on their relationship with 16 year old kids to get them six-figure paydays — and, like I said, it’s unlikely that all of these deals are acceptable in the eyes on the NCAA.
But I, personally, have no issue with it. Recruiting is all about connections, and if you can’t recruit talent into your program — if your staff doesn’t have those connections — you won’t be winning many games or coaching for very long at that institution.
And you better get used to it. As this method of recruiting continues to prove successful, it will only become more common-place.