March 14, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
NEW YORK - So what does the BIG EAST do when it's not filling the Garden and thrilling packed houses with its storied tournament? It's bringing together some of the game's luminaries to discuss the game's present and future.
That was the goal of the first BIG EAST Basketball Roundtable that was held at the Westin Grand Central Hotel in Manhattan, the brainchild of BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman. The Roundtable, which was conducted by Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News and WNBC sports anchor Bruce Beck, included among its guests NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Georgetown President Jack DiGioia, Tom Jernstedt, BIG EAST Senior Advisor and former NCAA Executive Vice President, Stu Jackson, former NBA head coach and current color analyst for BIG EAST basketball for Fox Sports 1, Austin Croshere, former Providence star and 12-year NBA player who is a Fox Sports 1 studio analyst for BIG EAST basketball and Art Hyland, former BIG EAST Supervisor of Officials and current Rules Secretary.
The topics ranged from the state of college athletics to the relationship between the NCAA and NBA to the present and future of the BIG EAST. But the one topic that the panelists spent much of their time discussing was the possibility of raising the minimum age for college players entering the NBA Draft.
The opinions from both the NBA and college sides were closely aligned.
"I've been very outspoken about our desire to raise the age from 19 to 20," Silver said. "Certainly it's not a new issue for the league and it's not a different position than (former NBA commissioner) David Stern has had and the owners have had historically. In the last round of collective bargaining that was one of our proposals. We were in the midst of a work stoppage and in an effort to get the season started we compromised on a lot of issues and one of them was (minimum age). We agreed to so-call "park" (the issue) and return to it once we got the season started...We haven't returned to those issues yet but it's very much in the forefront of our minds."
Silver said he sees many the benefits to instituting a higher minimum age, saying raising it to 20 years old would have "a direct impact on the young men who come and play in our league, it has a direct impact on the quality of the game and it has a direct impact on our fan base." In short, it would be a win-win for both the NCAA and NBA.
"One, we think we'd have a better draft if the young men have had two years of high-level competition instead of one," Silver continued. "They'll be more mature and one thing we haven't talked enough about is one year of college is better than no college and two years is better than one year. These are great (college) institutions and they are life changing. It is critically important for these young men to be part of these great institutions."
King, the former Duke start now running the show for the Brooklyn Nets, used one of his current players as a case study as to why playing longer in college is better in the long run.
"I use (Nets first-year forward) Mason Plumlee (as an example)," King said. "There was talk he was going to come out (of Duke) after his freshman year, but he stayed and he stayed and he stayed all four years and now he's starting for us and playing real well. I think if Mason Plumlee came out after his freshman or sophomore year he would not be at the level he's at now. I think the longer they stay the better for everybody involved. I remember when I was a sophomore at Duke there was no way I wanted to (leave) and go guard Dr. J. That's the biggest adjustment, kids coming in (at 19), they're just not mature."
Croshere, who played four years at Providence before his 12 years in NBA, was also not an advocate of the so-called "one-and-done" careers.
"You think you're prepared for these moments in the NBA until you get there then you realize how much bigger it is than you realized," Croshere said. "And me, being a four-year college player and being 22 years old, I had to go guard (former Indiana Pacers) Antonio Davis, Dale Davis and Rik Smits and physically I wasn't prepared. So for guys who are 18-19 years old it's very rare that someone can step into that position and succeed."
It was a lively two-hour discussion of opinions and ideas, one which ultimately turned to the new BIG EAST and the tournament at the Garden.
"The Garden is the Mecca for the game," Jackson said. "It has transcended across generations. And even as you listen to young players today, and one of them mentioned it just (Thursday), that his goal of playing in the Garden was a shining moment for him. So whether you're young or you're old nothing will ever replace Madison Square Garden as the true Mecca of basketball. It's a great place to have a tournament and the magic really does happen, whether it's walking into the theater lighting, whether it's looking at rims and baskets that you've seen on TV throughout the years and coming to the realization that you're in the same spot that some of the greats have been. There's truly nothing like it."
Jernstedt, after his long tenure with the NCAA, sees only better days ahead for the transformed BIG EAST.
"I couldn't me more excited," Jernstedt said. "It's a new era, not necessarily a new BIG EAST. I think potentially it's going to be bigger and better. I think it's a very compatible group of institutions competitively and I couldn't be more excited for it."