Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Coach K: ESPN is Overhyping the Diaper Dandies at the Expense of College Basketball
NEW YORK — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t think it’s right that the “Big 4” college freshmen are getting non-stop media attention and he’s pointing the blame squarely at ESPN for overhyping them.
“Nationally I’m a little bit worried that that is always becoming the thing,” Coach K said Tuesday at a press conference in midtown Manhattan in advance of the Preseason NIT this week at Madison Square Garden.
“I think part of it is that the people who show our games, show NBA, too, so they’re constant thought is cross-promoting.”
ESPN shows both NBA and college games and Coach K believes that the constant hype of his own star freshman, Jabari Parker, along with Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, is done to cross-promote college basketball and the NBA on The Worldwide Leader. The quartet are all projected to go among the top 5 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft.
“Yeah, and I love ESPN,” Coach K said. “I think they should do whatever they want to do. What I’m saying is we as a college basketball community should not completely buy into that.”
Coach K made comments along similar lines two weeks ago in Chicago when he said “shame on” any NBA franchises that were tanking to get these Diaper Dandies in the Draft.
Coach K professed admiration for NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and said college basketball needs a commissioner of its own. (No word on whether he wants Jay Bilas to take over that role.)
“In college basketball, you should not want to tell one story,” Coach K said. “And if the one story you’re telling is a lead-in to not even your sport [the NBA], then somehow our sport needs to kind of control that more. That’s my take on it. That’s why I think there should be a Commissioner for basketball so we work together.”
Coach K said two of the best stories of this college basketball season are Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart and Creighton senior Doug McDermott, two leading candidates for National Player of the Year honors.
“These kids [the freshmen] are all great, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But there are other great kids. Two kids who played in the summer for me in a five-day mini camp in Vegas with 28 other NBA players were McDermott and Smart. Well, they’re two of the best players in the country. They may be the two best.”
Asked if he thinks this current group of freshmen — two of whom will be showcased this week at MSG — is unique, Coach K said: “It’s unique but you could have 15 years of unique and then what does that to do our game? It’s great that these kids are in it but a beautiful story is that Smart is there for a second year. That’s the best story.”
Parker and Gordon both played down the massive attention the “Big 4” are getting, with Parker calling it “dumb.”
“My opinion, I think it’s dumb, that they just highlight freshmen,” Parker, averaging 23 points and 8.8 rebounds for No. 6 Duke, told SNY.tv. “I mean, what have we done? We just came in here played a couple games and they just worried about us the entire team.”
The 6-foot-8 Parker said he barely even pays attention to all the SportsCenter hype.
“No, I don’t watch it, I don’t take part of it,” he said. “I focus on the team.”
The 6-9 Gordon echoed similar sentiments about the hype surrounding the Diaper Dandies.
“I agree with that,” said Gordon, averaging 13 points and 9 rebounds for No. 4 Arizona. “There’s a lot of hype. Hype generates hype. When a couple of people hear about something and they say it’s great, then everybody else flocks over without even seeing or paying any mind or or making their own judgment, so that does happen quite a bit in sports analysis. But there’s a lot of college guys here. It’s a new season, they have to prove themselves this season as well.”
Gordon says he’s asked about Wiggins, Parker and Randle — and how he fits in to that group — in just about every interview.
“I get asked about them pretty often because people are still on the borderline of whether I’m with them or not with them,” he said. “But every time there’s an interview I’m asked about them, what I think about them, how I think I fit in with them and I say the same thing every time. All I can be is Aaron Gordon and I’m going to do the best I can at that.”
Still, Gordon says it doesn’t surprise him that Wiggins, Parker, Randle and himself are getting all this attention based on what they accomplished in high school and prep ball.
“They’re talented players,” he said. “I know they’re talented players. I knew we we were a talented class. The 2013 class is very versatile. We’re all big and can do a lot of different things so I knew we were going to be OK in college.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.