As I did with Reggie Bush and and OJ Mayo, I think it's important to defend the players, who really have no idea about the backroom dealing that often takes place among AAU coaches, family members, agents, runners and college coaches.
The NCAA, college programs and coaches can shift the blame to the agents, but ultimately it takes two take to tango. What's so damning in this investigation is the volume of calls between an agent and the UConn coaching staff. Not just any agent. But a decertified agent who stands accused of stealing $1 million from a former UConn great and current NBA star Richard "Rip" Hamilton.
According to Yahoo!, there were "1,565 phone and text communications" with Josh Nochimson, a former UConn basketball manager turned agent who once repped Hamilton and Luol Deng. 16 of those calls were from Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun. Think Kelvin Sampson is shaking his head? Sampson made a few extra calls to recruits and one infamous three-way call, while UConn recruiters made 1,500-plus calls to an alleged thief who stole from one of UConn's own. 16 of those calls were from Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun.
The problem of funneling players among summer program, college basketball and then back to the agents is nothing new. It is heightened with the NBA age restriction and the embracing of one-(or even two)-and-done. This is what happens when the NCAA and its members attempt to maintain an outdated facade of amateurism, while EVERYTHING about basketball AT ALL LEVELS has been commercialized...whether we want to admit it or not.
There's no explicit fiduciary duty for college coaches to protect their players from unsavory characters, but I would like to believe that college coaches are the players' "in loco parentis." After all, that's what coach recruiters promise to mothers and fathers every day. Nochimson was a former UCONN student basketball manager, so there's added intrigue: His role appears to be essentially babysitting on behalf of UCONN and making sure Miles was delivered to his alma mater. In return, Nochimson would be well positioned when Miles went pro.
UConn athletic department and its basketball coaches should bear some responsibility to protect current players from a guy who stole big money from a former UConn star. Nice notion, of course, but the insatiable appetite coaches have for the NEXT star is often too great to resist. According to the Yahoo report:
“[Nochimson] admitted to stealing,” Hamilton said. “He cried … I always remember my agent saying, ‘Rip, don’t put your hands on him because he’ll be able to sue you. [Nochimson] was doing everything off of me. He looks like a high roller. It’s hard for a kid because you may not have anything and you see this guy.”
Did the experience of Rip Hamilton cause UConn hoops to end its association with Nochimson? Not in this upside down world. Here's the conclusion to the Yahoo! story:
Hamilton’s discovery didn’t stop UConn’s contact with Nochimson. The phone calls and text messages went on well past Miles’ expulsion. Even now, Moore is unwilling to disavow his old student-manager saying that they still haven’t discussed the charges that he stole from Hamilton. “I consider him a friend and a very loyal, trusting person,” Moore said.
Using this standard to judge people, who does Moore consider disloyal and distrusting?
As an aside, my high school plays a periphery role. From the Yahoo! story: "Nate Pomeday remembered Nochimson arriving unannounced with Miles at his gymnasium in Lake Forest, Ill. Nochimson had discussed using Pomeday’s school at the time, Lake Forest Academy, as a place to enroll other basketball players. Pomeday said he never worked out Miles." Nice that an agent wants to turn LFA into a basketball factory.