October 17, 2006
One major key to be successful in college basketball is obvious recruiting. Without blue chippers, you don't end up in the winner's circle. Just ask guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams or even the Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden. By the way, the winner of 10 national titles, Wooden just celebrated his 96th birthday and he is as sharp as ever. Happy belated birthday and I was thrilled to read a post office was named after him in Reseda, California. What a great tribute for a guy who deserves the best!
Back to recruiting. Does anyone believe that Bruce Weber and Kelvin Sampson will exchange Christmas cards anytime soon? Think about how the rivalry will heat up now. Last year, highly-regarded guard Eric Gordon made a verbal commitment to the Illini. He was labeled the best player coming out of Indiana. He was considering the Hoosiers, but picked Illinois.
Then came a coaching change in Hoosier Country, good-bye Mike Davis, hello Kelvin Sampson. Immediately there were stories that Gordon could change his mind and join the Hoosiers. They turned out to be valid reports as Gordon, at Indiana's Midnight Madness, said farewell to the Illinois verbal commitment and hello to Sampson and the Hoosiers.
The world of recruiting can really influence the failure or success of a college basketball coach. A simple commitment by a talented player can make all the difference in the world. What about that verbal agreement and a player keeping his word? People behind the scenes are questioning why Indiana would chase a player who gave a verbal commitment to another school, one within the conference.
Let me say this these are not little kids and they know right from wrong. Gordon could have ended all speculation by telling Indiana he gave his word to Illinois, please stop recruiting me. That would have ended it, but it never happened. Until formally signing the letter of intent, he is still basically a free agent despite his oral commitment.
We will see how this all plays out. Imagine the tension at Big Ten meetings! Think about how intense this rivalry between Illinois and Indiana will be when they meet on the hardwood!
Stay tuned because something tells me this soap opera, as the world of recruiting goes, has not ended with Gordon's decision to go to Indiana. We will find out more down the road.
I guess that's why I enjoy working in the world of TV. I don't have to worry about losing a recruit, and I don't have to worry about losing a game. There are enough pressures for today's coaches as they try to get the star player to take you to the promised land.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.