Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski aren't the first college hoops observers to notice the massive conflict of interest at the heart of Isiah Thomas' job as a consultant with the New York Knicks. Our own Dana O'Neil tackled that last week. The calculus is pretty clear: At best, Thomas' dual jobs as Florida International head coach and Knicks consultant -- with responsibilities that include "player recruitment" -- make for a rather unseemly use of a loophole the NCAA would do well to close.
Interestingly enough, Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski agree. From Adam Zagoria:
"I would decline to do that just because I shouldn't be perceived to have an advantage in whatever way over another college coach, so that's why I wouldn't to do it," Krzyzewski said Tuesday. "I don't think there's anything ethically wrong with it or whatever, I just think that it's probably better to keep it separate."
"Have we served as consultants to the pros? Yeah," Krzyzewski said. "People call us before the draft, 'What do you think of this, what do you think of that?' I think it's better to have it like that."
Coach K was more diplomatic about the situation than Boeheim, who said the conflict of interest applied to both the NBA and college teams:
"It's a conflict [of interest] either way, from college or from the NBA, I just don't understand why it wouldn't be," Boeheim said. "You know, you're a college coach involved with kids and the NBA wants your players or evaluations of your players. ... It seems like it's kind of a conflict a little bit that you're coaching kids and then recommending them to pro guys."
Per the usual, Boeheim hits it on the head. The notion that Thomas could utilize his position in the Knicks front office as a recruiting ploy ... well, just what message does that send? And if you're a college coach, and you see this strategy work, why wouldn't you do the same? How long would it take for any college coach looking to compete on the recruiting trail to tie himself to an NBA team? It's another paycheck, and the NCAA doesn't have a rule against it, so, hey, why not?
Of course, there are problems on the NBA's side. If I'm the Knicks, and Thomas is touting a star FIU player over other draft prospects, am I going to trust his evaluation? Probably not. I'm going to assume he's fulfilling his side of a quid pro quo, or at the very least doing his best to build a league-straddling pipeline to the pros. What good does that do my franchise, exactly?
In any case, it will be the NCAA's job to step up and end the discussion. Thomas' roles are currently legal. But they're only an ethical fraction removed from the NCAA's rules about contact with agents and prohibitions on hiring "individuals associated with prospects" (read: AAU and high school coaches). It shouldn't take much to close that loophole.