Recently, I have found myself reminiscing about the good old days of NBA and college basketball. Being a traditionalist, I am not happy with how much basketball has changed.
One of the things that has changed in college basketball is the early signing period, which this year starts Nov. 8th. It used to be a significant benchmark for every college basketball program throughout the country. This was the time of year where all of the hard work of each program's recruiting efforts culminated with a recruit signing a national letter of intent to the school of his choice. There was tremendous suspense over where the top recruits in the country were going to sign, and not until they had signed did anyone truly know which school had landed their top recruits.
Each college basketball program plays approximately thirty games during a season, and their coaches, players, fans and alumni follow their wins and losses with tremendous interest. Most of these same people follow recruiting with as much interest and fanaticism, because the recruiting battles that these programs win in November have a direct impact on a program's success in the years ahead.
The model for recruiting a prospect has changed. It used to be a model where you could learn about a recruit, watch him grow and develop during his high school career. Back then, colleges would identify prospects in their sophomore and junior basketball seasons. They would start the recruiting process trying to let the prospect know their interest by attending his games, visiting his school and getting to know his coach and principal. In the spring and summer of the recruit's junior/senior year, college coaches would attempt to accelerate the process by getting a recruit to visit their school unofficially and then follow him at camps and AAU tournaments during the evaluation period in July. This all culminated with home visitations and campus visits by the prospect in the fall of his senior year.
This recruiting process, built up over a two- or three-year period, created a suspense and anticipation that was captivating. Each week when a recruit visited a particular school, coaches would scramble to find out what the recruit thought about his visit, where they stood and what they needed to do to improve their standing. As each week passed, it reminded me of high stakes poker, where as each hand was dealt, the payoff got higher and higher.
Throughout the months of September and October, the pressure used to build with each week of campus visits. This all came to a head during the early signing period. Some recruits would decide and commit on visits, some several days before the signing period, and others changed their minds just before they signed the letter of intent.
However, somewhere over the last 10 years, everything drastically changed. The early signing period has become passť and truly non-important in my eyes. Nowadays, recruits are making their decisions during the spring and summer after their junior year, some even before that. Most decisions by the top 200 recruits in the country come long before the November signing period arrives. All of this has made the early signing period feel extremely anticlimactic.
During my tenure as a college coach, I loved recruiting. As I've said, fans, boosters and alumni follow recruiting with a passion that borders on insanity. I miss the early signing period, and I'm sure they do also. We are approaching the early signing date this fall, and I know where 88 of the top 100 players in the country are already going.
Nowadays, I feel like I am at the Academy Awards and I've already known months in advance who is going to win Best Actor. All of the suspense and anticipation of year's past is gone. And I really don't like it.
John Carroll spent nine years as an NBA coach, including seven with the Boston Celtics. Before joining the NBA, Carroll spent six years as head coach at Duquesne and seven years as an assistant at Seton Hall.