There's no question Louisville coach Rick Pitino would have liked for Samardo Samuels to return for another year in 2010-11. Samuels' decision is not a wise one; the big man will be lucky to get drafted in the bottom end of the second round, if at all. If he had stayed a year, you never know. Maybe he improves his draft stock considerably. Maybe not. But it couldn't have been much lower than it is right now.
Instead, Samuels decided to hire an agent and come out this year. Foolish? Yes. But in a Wednesday news conference on the decision, Pitino provided some good perspective second-guessers like myself should probably keep in mind from time to time:
"In Samardo's case, look, y'all have got to understand this is not a young man from the projects of New York or L.A. or Chicago," Pitino said. "This is a young man who's doing it for his family, who's trying to better his family. What we think is poor, you don't know poor. Whether he's making a right or wrong decision is irrelevant because he's doing it for the right reasons. That's why I support his decision."
That's a diplomatic way to handle it. It's always hard to question a player's decision to go to the NBA. It's like saying, "Hey, kid, you know your lifelong dream? Forget it. At least for now. Ain't gonna happen." No one wants to deliver that message. And in cases when a player is ready for the NBA, or he's a first-round pick, or whatever, it's best to just tip your cap and wish the guy luck. It's his life and his dream. Why argue against it?
In Samuels' case, though, leaving for the NBA this year might genuinely be the wrong thing to do for his family. Maybe Samardo ran a careful cost-benefit analysis to staying in school for another year, maybe he figures his stock won't get any higher and he won't be able to help his family any more in 365 days' time, so why wait? Maybe. Or maybe he's just getting really, really bad advice. Either way, hopefully it works out, both for Samardo and for his family back in Jamaica. But this is not a good start.