The ‘shocking’ news of FBI arrest of four Black college basketball coaches in conjunction with a corruption scheme sent shivers through the basketball community from grassroots, college and even NBA.
Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, Auburn assistant Chuck Person, Emanuel "Book" Richardson of Arizona and USC assistant Tony Bland have been are accused of receiving benefits in "excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance and other form of Federal Assistance."
Evans, Richardson, and Bland face a combined 11 charges, including conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy.
Authorities say that Person agreed to accept $50,000 in bribes from a cooperating witness for the government in exchange for using his position at Auburn to steer student-athletes to retain the services of an agent.
Person is being charged with six counts, including solicitation of bribes, bribery conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
"Moreover, many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA," the complaints said.
On the surface it would appear that these four men are really bad dudes, but its far to the contrary.
I have personally been involved and covering the landscape of basketball for over 40 years from the grassroots level and beyond and there is really nothing at all shocking about it.
I have found my name as a subject in the book Raw Recruits and others for my relationship with various players and coaches throughout the years.
The NCAA is the greatest sports monopoly aside from the National Football League, its jaded rules and regulations vaguely discriminate against minorities and poor and while it continues to pad its bank accounts on the backs of poor Black kids.
Bland, whom I have known for years was one of those kids, while playing AAU ball for Southern Cal All Stars then Westchester High School, Syracuse and San Diego State and eventually assistant coach at San Diego State and most recently USC.
To be clear, I am not contending that Bland or any of the aforementioned are not responsible for the charges leveled against them, but I am contending they are not the only ones.
Perhaps this is the tip of an iceberg, one that could forever change the landscape of college athletics.
The business of recruiting is a brutal and nasty game. Kids don’t just go to Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, North Carolina or any of the other major colleges because they like the school environment, the coaches and the campus.
If you believe that you are a damn fool. It’s all for money, from the University to the coach and most importantly the NCAA, rarely it for the pure benefit of the student.
Many of these players come from single family households, the only men of influence in their lives is the AAU coach, or in most cases the college assistants.
Call it the rules of engagement if you will, but winning at the highest levels comes at the supreme sacrifice of high risk and high reward.
These four men are just the pawns, they are not the bishop or the king. While they are out there combing the ghetto for the next great talent, their bosses are sitting high above the fray ready to celebrate the catch or turn their head if it all goes awry.
Bland was one of the most sought after assistant coaching in college basketball, he makes close to a half mil at USC and it’s not because he’s the most creative X and O man in the game.
Anybody can draw up a play on a dry erase board, but who is going to carry it out on the court?
The temptation of resting on your laurels is often not an option in a world fueled by greed and corruption.
Several layers cover this scandal. Coach, Agent, University, NCAA ‘student-athlete’, shoe company (Adidas). The charges include wire fraud and conspiracy and could land the men in prison for up to 20 years.
Ironically, it’s nothing new and has been going on for years and will continue to go on.