Photo: Kevin C. Cox (Getty Images)

Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy—one of the smartest and most quotable coaches in the NBA—got asked about the NCAA, and the Friday report about the FBI’s enforcement of recruiting violations, ahead of his Pistons’ game against the Hornets on Sunday. He took the opportunity to go in on the NBA’s free minor league.

“The NCAA is one of the worst organizations — maybe the worst organization — in sports. They certainly don’t care about the athletes. They’re going to act now like they’re just appalled by all these things going on in college basketball? Please. It’s ridiculous,” Van Gundy said.

He then went on to add that he thought* the one-and-done rule, which essentially forces basketball players who have graduated high school to either play a year in college or Europe before going to the NBA, was unfair and racist:

I think a lot of it was racist, quite honestly. And the reason I’m going to say that is, I’ve never heard anybody go up in arms about, ‘Oh my god, they’re letting these kids go out and play minor-league baseball’ or, ‘They’re letting these kids come out and play minor-league hockey.’ They’re not making big money, and they’re white kids primarily, and nobody has a problem.

But all of a sudden, you’ve got a black kid who wants to come out of high school and make millions — that’s a bad decision? But bypassing college to go play for $800 a month in minor-league baseball – that’s a fine decision? What the hell is going on?

Advertisement

The one-and-done rule, by most measurements, is good for the NBA’s business. Instead of letting talented but relatively unknown teenagers go straight to the draft—which, by the way, Van Gundy also thinks is a dumb way to add players to teams—it makes them build up hype by playing for free on national TV, usually for a school with a huge built-in fanbase that can then transfer over to the pros. Imagine how many more people will care about which team Trae Young goes to this summer, compared to last.

But obviously, Van Gundy is right that it’s only football and basketball—the two predominantly black sports in America—that have these rules limiting when players can become professionals, and it doesn’t make any sense. A minor league baseball player living below the poverty line is not better off than a basketball player turning pro right after high school, and yet only one of those things is currently impossible in the U.S.

*Correction (9:34 a.m. ET): Originally there was a “didn’t” in that sentence that gave it the opposite meaning. That’s been changed.