Lute Olson is a college basketball icon, but he is also an ambassador to all of basketball. With so many of his players in the NBA he knows all too well what is happening in the League. He has always had a critical eye when it comes to the sport in which he's a Hall Of Famer.
One concern Coach Olson had was about the high number of young players entering the NBA Draft. He points to the proposed 20-year rule that NBA commissioner David Stern has been pushing for. The rule would require a player to be at least 20 years of age before he can attempt an NBA career.
One has to wonder whether or not he feels the sport is healthy or not?
"College basketball in general is probably as popular, or more popular than it's ever been. The No. 1 problem right now has to do with the lack of a minimum age in the NBA. Hopefully that's going to be solved when the Players Union meets with the owners. I'd prefer the 20-year-old rule. I personally think every kid, as talented as he may be, still needs an opportunity to mature and learn some skills that can be taught in college. Not only basketball skills, but social skills and the maturity that would come with spending a couple years in college. I know they talk about Lebron and how he was ready, but they said the same thing about Kobe (Bryant), and maybe he wasn't quite ready. The two years in college might have allowed him to mature enough to deal better with some the issues he's faced.
"For every 18-year-old that comes in the front door a veteran goes out the back. They don't have the maturity in the league I think they need.
"The NCAA manual is very thick, but the reality there is that there are so many rules because people have tried to take advantage of rules in the past and looked for loopholes. As a result it's hard to keep up with everything. The unfortunate thing is most of the rules are there because people have abused them, and unfortunately they aren't going to pay attention to the rules anyway. That's a little frustrating, but on the other hand I don't know if there's anything we can do about that."
Lute Olson has never been one to openly embrace the officials. He's never bitten his tongue when it comes to what he perceives as bad calls. He has never toed the party line when it comes to blindly endorsing conference officials. He has even been victimized by questionable calls in the NCAA Tournament. Olson has a solution to many of those problems.
"I don't think we're ever solve the officiating problem until it becomes a program controlled by the NCAA with regions throughout the country. We want the game to be called the same whether it's the east, Midwest or west, and the only way that's going to happen is eliminating conference affiliations. They should be NCAA officials. I think they should be answerable to the NCAA. We have officials in our league that say they have to work differently in this conference than if they work in the Big 12. We all know the ACC calls things differently than the Big East does. We're playing the same game. The problem is, when we get into the NCAA tournament at the end of the year, it becomes a disadvantage to the schools who have been playing one way as opposed to another way because once you get into the playoffs it gets a lot more physical.
"I've said this for 15 or more years, it's never going to be solved until you get rid of conference affiliations. The officials are independent contractors anyway, so I think the NCAA has to set up regions, maybe six, maybe eight, with a commissioner as a head to each of those regions who is answerable to the NCAA commissioner of officials."
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