SMU’s hiring of recruit’s father is savvy, but isn’t guaranteed to work

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SMU set something of a precedent this week, as the program has reportedly hired Tyrone Maxey, a longtime Dallas-area high school coach and the father of Class of 2019 five-star prospect Tyrese Maxey, to their coaching staff.

Package deals like this are not uncommon.

Michael Porter Sr. has landed jobs as assistant coach at both Washington and Missouri as Lorenzo Romar and Cuonzo Martin, respectively, were trying to bring in Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay Porter. DePaul hired Shane Heirman as an assistant coach in part because they knew he would bring with him a commitment from four-star point guard Tyger Campbell. Shammond Williams, Mitchell Robinson’s godfather, was hired as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, although that did not turn out all that well.

And those are just deals that have happened in the past year. I could go on. (Keelon Lawson getting hired as an assistant at Memphis to land K.J. and Dedric, David Patrick was hired at LSU to get Ben Simmons.)

The difference with the Maxeys, however, is that Tyrone was not hired as an assistant coach.

He’s been hired in a support staff role, as the Director of Player Development, which is something the NCAA tried to legislate out of the sport seven years ago.

Back in 2010, the NCAA instituted a rule that banned the hiring of an “individual associated with a prospective student-athlete” in a support staff role for two years prior to and two years after the enrollment of that student-athlete. Put another way, unless you’re hiring that person as one of the three assistant coaches on staff, any relative, handler, high school coach or AAU coach must be hired two years before or after that student-athlete enrolls at the school.

Tyrone is not being hired as one of the three assistant coaches on Tim Jankovich’s staff.

He is, however, being hired more than two years before the fall semester of what would be Tyrese’s freshman year; my understanding is that Tyrese would be able to enroll at SMU without running into an issue with the NCAA. To my knowledge, that would make Tyrone the first person hired in a support staff role in a direct effort to land a specific recruit and SMU the first program to circumvent the NCAA’s rule by bringing on a parent more than two years before his son enrolls.

Jankovich knows what he’s doing.

He was on Bill Self’s staff when Mario Chalmers’ father was hired. He spent four years working under Larry Brown, who hired Danny Manning’s father. Both of those decisions led directly to a national title. It shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that he’s making a run at Tyrese Maxey, who is a top 20 player in the class, in this way.

It’s worth noting here that neither Tyrese nor Tyrone has said that the elder’s decision to take this job makes the younger a lock to be a Mustang. Tyrone has been a high school coach for the last 17 years in the Dallas area, including the past three seasons as an assistant coach at local power South Garland High School, but the intent here is transparent. Tyrone is replacing George Lynch, who won a national title with North Carolina before becoming a first round NBA Draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers and spending a dozen seasons in the NBA, in a player development role.

That hire may not end up being what makes this decision for Tyrese — high school kids tend to be unpredictable at times — but there’s no doubt that the intention of it was for it to influence his recruitment.

And let me be very clear here: There is nothing wrong with what SMU has done. Not only is it within the NCAA’s rules, but Jankovich is actually out ahead of the curve on this one. He doesn’t have to burn one of his three assistant coaching positions one someone who may or may not be qualified for the job, and he’ll have a great chance to land a player that may end up being the best recruit to enroll at an AAC school in the Class of 2019.

It’s almost as if someone that spent nine years working for Brown and Self knows a thing or two about the coaching business.

Success at the college level depends almost entirely on recruiting, more so in basketball than just about any other sport, and there may not be a better example than the Mustangs. Over the last five recruiting classes, as the SMU program surged to become a mainstay in the top 25 and reach a pair of NCAA tournaments*, they’ve only had one year where they did not finish with a top three class in the AAC, according to 247 Sports. That was in 2014, when they signed Emmanuel Mudiay, a top five prospect in the class, that ended up playing his one-and-done year in China amid eligibility concerns.

*(During that stretch, SMU reached the 2015 and 2017 NCAA tournaments. They were controversially snubbed in 2014 and, in 2016, they were banned from the NCAA tournament despite fielding a top 15 team in the country.)

Prior to Brown’s arrival, SMU had landed just a single four-star prospect since 2004 and had gone since 1993 without reaching the NCAA tournament.

In a business where employment is tied entirely to winning and mediocre jobs can pay seven figures, it makes too much sense to use spots on a coaching staff as a recruiting tool.

It doesn’t, however, guarantee success.

Stansbury and Western Kentucky learned that the hard way. The Lawson brothers transferred out of Memphis after two disappointing seasons, the first of which got the coach that recruited them into the program, Josh Pastner, fired. Ben Simmons never made the NCAA tournament at LSU, and head coach Johnny Jones was fired a year later. Texas A&M hired J-Mychal Reese’s father, John, as an assistant in 2011, and J-Mychal lasted all of 39 games before he was dismissed from the program. It’s hard to imagine Campbell’s commitment in and of itself turning around a program as moribund as DePaul. It’s easier to find examples of this blowing up in a program’s face than it is to find success stories.

Jankovich certainly knows this.

He also knows it puts SMU in the driver’s seat to land the highest-rated prospect to play for the program since Rivals began ranking prospects in 2003 with minimal risk to the program’s health in the interim.

When push comes to shove, winning with talent is easier to do than winning without it, and if what it takes to land a local prospect as good as Maxey should end up being is to hire his dad in a player development role for two years, then that is what you do.

It will be interesting to see whether or not anyone follows in these footsteps.