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College coach Larry Brown thinks college is better than D-League for young players. Shocking.

Mar 6, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

Temple v SMU Getty Images

And in some very surprising news, a college basketball coach supports the college basketball system.

Larry Brown brings some credibility to this — he is the only coach in history to win an NCAA title (1988 Kansas) and an NBA title (2004 Detroit) and is remains one of the great teachers of the game.

He’s a college coach again, having turned around the SMU program. Being SMU is in Dallas it was only a matter of time before Brown was asked about Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban’s comment that young players would be better off developing in the D-League than in college.

And you could pretty much guess what Brown was going to say to before he said it.

“They don’t teach guys how to play, in my mind,” Brown said of the D-League. “The head coaches in the NBA and a lot of the assistants do, but [college basketball] is the greatest minor league system in the world. If you didn’t go to one class and just live in a college environment, then you’re way ahead. And I think most coaches are responsible enough to make them go to class, make them go to study hall, give them life lessons.

“How about being around [SMU assistants] Eric Snow and George Lynch? Those two guys played 13, 14 years in the league, have families, are successful. In all honesty, I love Mark, but [college basketball] is pretty good. Now, it’s our job to make [players] realize getting an education is something that’s important, because here’s the deal: Life after basketball is a real long time.”

This does not have to be a “one size fits all” answer. To me this really comes down to the player, more importantly the person.

If we are talking about a sure fire, lottery bound NBA guy — your Andrew Wiggins, your Jabari Parker — or if we are talking about a guy just not cut out for the riggers of college academic life (and there should be accountability and guys forced to get grades, that’s another issue) then the D-League is the call. What Cuban said is true (and Brown misses the mark here) — focused players will develop faster in the D-League. There are no restrictions on how many hours you can practice, no restrictions on how much you can work with coaches, the level of competition is higher and there simply is the fact that basketball becomes your job. You don’t have a school job too. Teams are putting coaches in the D-League now with a focus on developing players.

That said, for the vast majority of players college is the better call. Obviously the majority of college players will not make the NBA, will not get paid to play professionally anywhere, and for them the college degree matters. Even for the guys who might make it know that the average NBA career is less than three years long and you will not make max salary money — they need the degree, the education and those skills to fall back on to make a career however they choose.

More than that — and this is something that matters to teams — college matures people. NBA teams don’t want to babysit rookies and sometimes they do with the younger ones — getting them to practice on time, getting them to eat right, getting them to wash their clothes. If you’re like me college forced me to mature in terms of self-sufficiency, in terms of dealing with a variety of people, in terms of just being an adult. Teams know that more mature players are generally better players.

For another small group of players, going overseas out of high school may be the best option.

This debate does not have to be either or. It just depends on the person.

  1. RavenzGunnerz - Mar 6, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    March Madness is good for basketball thus good for the NBA. If March Madness disappears, then the NBA get 20% more revenues, but basketball in general loses 80% of college ball.

    Dear owners, stop being greedy. You did NOT invent the sport of basketball. So, share the revenue from this great sport.


    • sumkat - Mar 6, 2014 at 8:13 PM

      although I basically agree with you, if you look at it from the owners perspective, they’ve put a crap product out for the last 25 years and are still making a ton. Why not try to corner the market?

  2. uscoach - Mar 6, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    He’s not really a teacher. He kicked most of the team to the curb at SMU when he got there.

    • spursareold - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      “My way or the highway” is actually a lesson, albeit a painful one.

  3. football58 - Mar 6, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    Well duh, more coeds in college!

  4. flyingvien - Mar 6, 2014 at 8:56 PM


  5. Maurice Barksdale - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    The NBA is simply doesn’t have the competence level to deal with this issue properly. The elite prospects are only wasting their time playing in college. They’re not going to class, and are simply playing at a level beneath their talents without being compensated for it. It would be in the NBA’s best interest to begin training these elite prospects as soon as possible. The sooner they get them into a professional training regimen, the sooner they’ll be ready to contribute at the NBA level.

    Many of top European prospects are playing professional ball as teenagers. Some begin at 16-17 years old. Yet the NBA wants to keep the top American players as amateurs until their 20’s. Simply because they don’t want to pay them while they develop. College basketball won’t disappear without the Jabari Parkers and Andrew Wiggins. Those kinds of talents shouldn’t be there in the first place. They should be allowed to earn a living at their career of their choice if their skill level dictates it.

    There are teenagers playing in MLS right now, and in soccer leagues all around the world. Not to mention Major League Baseball, which routinely drafts players out of high school, and develops them in the minor leagues until they’re ready. So it can be done. The NBA either just doesn’t want to do it, or is so archaic and behind the times, that they don’t have the foresight or ingenuity these other leagues have to come up with a plan to do it.

  6. eugenesaxe1 - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    I have to go with Cuban on this one. The NBA is better equipped to teach these kids not only basketball, but the things they need to live life.

    • mortalkondek - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      What sort of life skills does the NBA provide exactly? Pretty sure money management is not among them.

      • eugenesaxe1 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:06 PM

        I doubt they provide any right now, but Cuban suggested they could easily be implemented in the D-League.

  7. mckaymatt - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    I honestly think this education thing gets blown up. They can go back to school after and get a degree. A lot of graduates don’t make that much money in their life as they would in a few years in the nba.

    • mckaymatt - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:51 PM

      Not saying the d league is better than college, I just mean leaving school after a year for a 5 year nba career and going back to school wouldn’t be the worst.

  8. trevor123698 - Mar 7, 2014 at 12:29 AM

    I am the most anti college person around because when it comes to history, physics, nutrition, most of the sciences, etc college is a scam. But, Larry Brown is right. it is structure, while the D-league is not. It is a hard fought competition all the way through. some of the weaker colleges are a breeze and some of those that are at the top are as well but the majority of the colleges attended by major players are getting these players ready to play beyond college. for the major studs I can excuse the lack of knowledge given to them. Those that know they may need an education face the choice of either using a free education or not using it.

  9. amitko - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:45 AM

    Helin killed irony. Shocking !

  10. spursareold - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    Not many HOF coaches patrolling the sidelines in the d-league.

    • paleihe - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      …or in college.

  11. nicofthenorthstar - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Well, I’ll give him this much, college hoops is better than d league and the NBA. Team oriented, defensive effort, players hustling up and down the floor; what’s not to like? NBA is about pumping up a few celeb players and the most lucrative franchises. Cheese.

  12. davidly - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

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