Musselman wants NBA-like rules

By: Bob Holt
Published: May 17, 2020 at 2:22 a.m. - Updated: May 17, 2020 at 2:22 a.m.
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman reacts to a call in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Photo by Mark Humphrey
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman reacts to a call in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas men's basketball Coach Eric Musselman made it clear before last season -- his first time leading the Razorbacks -- that he hopes this is his final stop.

"There's not going to be a better job come along for me than Arkansas," Musselman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last fall. "An NBA job isn't better than the Arkansas job."

While Musselman, a former NBA head coach at Golden State and Sacramento and assistant coach for several other teams, said he has no desire to return to the NBA, he wishes the NCAA would adopt rules to make it more uniform with professional basketball.

It's a subject Musselman hit on last week on a podcast with ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg, the radio show Halftime with host Phil Elson, and in an interview with the Democrat-Gazette.

Musselman said he believes some changes are needed, especially with a few of the top high school players in the nation bypassing college to sign with the NBA's G League.

Jalen Green, a shooting guard rated by ESPN as the nation's No. 1 recruit and whose top choices included Auburn, Memphis and Oregon, became the first high school player to bypass college and sign with a G League team in Los Angeles.

The team is not affiliated with an NBA franchise, and its purpose is to speed up development of players for the NBA Draft.

Two other high school stars are following Green to the G League. Point guard Daishen Nix previously had committed to UCLA and forward Isaiah Todd to Michigan.

In the past, Green, Nix and Todd might have become college stars -- at least for one season.

Musselman said the college game needs to consider changes to fend off more high school players in the future choosing the G League.

Switching from two 20-minute halves to four quarters -- possibly 12 minutes each like the NBA -- along with reducing the shot clock from 30 seconds to 24 and advancing the ball to the front court in the final minute of a game after a timeout are among the changes that could improve the college game, Musselman said.

"Everything is evolving," Musselman said on Greenberg's podcast. "This G League thing is new. I think the college game, also, can't be stuck. We need to evolve, too.

"Maybe we need to have a shorter shot clock. Maybe we need to be able to advance the ball. Then we can talk to players like, 'Hey, our rules are unified with the NBA.' Maybe the game needs to be 48 minutes instead of 40. At least those types of things have got to be in the discussion, I think, because the world is always evolving."

The G League -- so named because it is sponsored by Gatorade -- has replaced the CBA and the Developmental League as the NBA's minor-league system. It has 28 teams.

"There used to not even be a G League team owned by the NBA," Musselman, a former CBA and D League head coach, told Greenberg. "It was the old CBA that was an independent league.

"Then it was 12 minor-league NBA teams. Now it's everyone's got one except for Denver and Portland. So as the basketball world is evolving -- and European basketball is improving -- we've got to adjust our rules [in college] to make it more unified with the NBA to help prepare players for that level."

Arkansas has signed a recruiting class ranked No. 6 nationally by ESPN. Among Musselman's selling points are his NBA experience and contacts.

"All the players we recruit want to get to the NBA," Musselman said. "Now you're seeing some guys that have gone to the G League thinking about developing. So I just think if our rules were more aligned with the NBA from a development standpoint, that would help our game."

Musselman said at the very least the NCAA should add rules for the men's game that it did previously for the women.

In 2015, women's college basketball changed from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters, and adopted the NBA rule allowing teams to advance the ball to the front court after a timeout in the final minute of regulation or overtime.

"I think the best part of pro basketball in late-game situations is the advancement of the ball," Musselman. "I guess what really got me to thinking we need to add that to our game is watching our women's team and seeing Coach [Mike] Neighbors be able to do that.

"I think it's great women's teams can do that, but why can't the men's teams? It makes no sense the men can't advance the ball, too.

"Then with playing quarters instead of just two halves, every other league in the world -- the NBA, the G League, the college women, the WNBA, FIBA, high school boys and girls -- all play four quarters. But men's teams don't in college?

"I know I'm in the minority, but I just wish as a basketball fan, when you turn on an NBA game, a college game, a FIBA game, there would be more unified rules. Especially if college women have those rules, I wish we did as well."

Musselman said he has watched many of Arkansas' women's games.

"I love watching Coach Neighbors' teams play, but I think it's confusing for the fans that women and men have different rules," he said. "It's confusing for me, and I'm a coach."

Musselman said allowing men's college teams to advance the ball to the front court would greatly enhance the strategy involved.

"The advancement of the ball in late-game [situations] only makes the game better," Musselman told the Halftime show. "It gives the offense a better chance to score.

"The defense now has to guard closer to the rim and there's more strategy than inbounding the ball with four seconds to go and going the length of the floor.

"It really turns into luck as opposed to being able to get your team in a huddle, diagram something with two, three different options, and with four seconds to go on a side out, you can have two, three different options."

Musselman, who has coached teams from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in FIBA tournaments, said he also would like to see men's college basketball adopt some international rules.

"Having coached in FIBA, one of their rules I love is that the referee doesn't always have to touch the ball on out-of-bounds situations," Musselman said. "A player can get it and you can go. It makes the flow of the game go so well."

International rules also have a wider lane.

"I think that would be great for our game, too," Musselman said. "It opens more dribble-drive penetration."

Musselman said he believes college players could benefit from playing with a 24-second shot clock. He doesn't believe it would lead to a rash of shot clock violations or poor shots.

"Not at all," Musselman said. "Players in today's game are so adaptable. You put them in any situation, and they're going to adjust to it."

Musselman said he's not optimistic about the changes happening because few coaches and administrators have experience in the professional ranks.

"Part of the problem is people on rules committees or people making rules, they haven't done both," Musselman said of working on the NCAA and NBA levels. "I don't know how you can say, 'No, that's not a good rule,' if you've never played under those rules. But I think that's probably what will happen."

Sports on 05/17/2020

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