Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Musselman, SEC coaches like summer hoops idea
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman speaks to his players Wednesday, July 27, 2022, during practice in the Eddie Sutton Men’s Basketball Practice Gym on the university campus in Fayetteville.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Arkansas coach Eric Musselman is a supporter of college basketball being played during a time when the game is typically quiet.
John Calipari, the long-time head coach at Kentucky, recently spoke out on the idea of college exhibition games during the summer, and it is reportedly picking up steam. According to a report, he has pitched the idea to the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Calipari also has the support of Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior Vice President of basketball.
Asked Wednesday about the idea, Musselman labeled it “an awesome idea.”
“Talking to our players, even this week, it's really hard to have this gap between games, and we played a few weeks longer than other people even,” Musselman said, referencing the team's run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. “I can't imagine if your season ends on the last regular-season game. I think it's a great idea.
“You look at what the NBA has done where they take over July. It’s incredible what they've done from a TV standpoint.
“People are talking about the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas rather than talking about Major League Baseball during their regular season.”
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Musselman, who has a strong rapport with Calipari, said the Wildcats’ coach has been vocal about the idea of late, but Musselman recalls it being discussed years ago, too.
“I think it's an incredible idea, and I think that, most importantly, that our players would embrace that,” Musselman said.
Matt McMahon, entering his first season at LSU following the departure of Will Wade, said summer basketball would fill an empty TV window during the summer. He noted it would likely generate more excitement around the game, too.
“We already have access to our players for eight weeks in the summer,” McMahon said. “It ends up becoming a long year. I think to face outside competition toward the end of the summer, have that televised, what that ends up looking like, I don't know.
“But I think it would be something we need to really explore and take advantage of that opportunity.”
Rick Barnes, Tennessee’s eighth-year coach, laid out some additional thoughts on summer basketball, including on the officiating and a desire to play more exhibitions in the preseason.
“I think what that stems from is we think that we do get tired of practicing. We need to practice,” Barnes said. “We need that time, but we would also like to have a little more outside competition at some point in time. Again, if we want to take the NBA Summer League model for the summer, we should also think about what they do with their preseason because not only do we need it, I think referees need it.
“I think it would really help officiating. They could get more work in before we actually get into games because these early tournament games mean a lot. For some situations they've only had a game or two under their belt when that starts. Maybe that might be their first one.
“I think players would tell you we all are more playing games.”
First-year Mississippi State coach Chris Jans added that if coaches are willing to make sacrifices and think outside the box that the summer games could enhance college basketball and engage fans.
“It's gotten some traction. It's gotten some legs,” Jans said. “I think other people are talking about it, and there's a vacuum out there that I think would just raise the level of awareness of college basketball. In the last five, 10 years when they've opened up the access that we have with our guys now, compared to what it used to be with just lifting and running and playing pick-up, and now we get coach-and-teach, it gets old for them.
"They need a little breakup. They need something to look forward to. I think if we were able to figure all that out…I think it would really help the whole experience.”
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