Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone crafted a stellar piece this week asking if Washington crossed the recruiting line by hiring Michael Porter Sr., who just happens to have three sons -- led by 6-foot-9 uber-prospect Michael Jr. -- who are outstanding basketball players.
Michael Jr. is one of the top talents in the land for the 2017 recruiting cycle and he’s narrowed his list of colleges to UW, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana and Missouri. His younger brother Jontay — a 2018 prospect — already has verbally committed to Washington. And youngest brother Coban is entering high school this fall.
Here are a couple of salient excerpts from Stone’s story:
“Last month, on May 6, Romar announced that Michael Porter Sr. -- the dad of Michael and Jontay -- was hired as one of his assistant coaches at Washington. Porter had been an assistant for the women’s team at the University of Missouri
“Last week, Brandon Roy, the former Husky and NBA star, was named the head coach at Nathan Hale High School, a previous basketball wasteland in the powerful Metro League. And at the same time, it was revealed that the Porter kids — Michael Jr., Jontay and freshman Coban — would attend Hale, thus transforming them from a doormat to instant state title contender … (a move) interpreted by some as a way for the Huskies to keep the virtues of Washington constantly in Michael’s ear.
Stone adds, “Now, the cynically inclined would say this is a page out of the Larry Brown handbook — hire the dad and get the superstar kid (or kids) in the package. Brown did it at Kansas with Ed Manning, helping land Danny Manning, who led the Jayhawks to the 1988 national title.”
He notes that following the Manning case and others, the NCAA passed legislation to limit such “package deals” by forbidding schools from hiring parents or relatives to non-coaching positions for two years before and after the player’s enrollment.
The key term there is “non-coaching positions.”
Rather than mess with hiring people on the fringes, coaches are just putting parents and influential AAU types right on the bench as full-blown assistant coaches.
Romar is merely the latest to jump onto this slippery slope.
Wayne Tinkle, for example, entered the morass at Oregon State in 2014 when he hired Stephen Thompson, father of one of the top 75 recruiting prospects in 2015 — Stephen Thompson Jr. — who just finished his first season with the Beavers.
Bobby Hurley at Arizona State recently added Anthony Coleman, a guy who has never coached a day in college ball, to his Sun Devils staff. The reason? For the past three years, Coleman has been Adidas’ main man in the sordid world of AAU ball. His work spreading the Adidas largesse allowed Coleman to build relationships with many of the best young basketball players in the nation.
The examples go on.
These types of cozy arrangements have always seemed to be the stuff of East Coast hoops. But with Tinkle and Hurley and now Romar — the same Romar whom, as Stone says, always has been regarded as a “paragon of integrity” — the “untoward realities of college basketball” are now front and center for all to see.
Granted, there is nothing illegal about all this, and Romar defenders will point out that he and Porter Sr. have been friends for a long time and that Michael Jr. is Romar's godson.
Stone concludes that the situation "might bump into the boundaries of dubious tactics — but I don’t see it as going over the edge.”
He’s probably right. It looks bad and smells worse, but the realty is that it’s only another pushing of the recruiting envelope.
It’s easy — very easy — to take shots at this kind of maneuvering, especially so when it’s your rival. One day Cougar fans may find themselves at this same crossroads of integrity and necessity, and the guess here is that there will be a collective plugging of the nose with a smile hidden underneath.