The following is an excerpt from the weekly “Nothing but the Notes” package at our partner site WILDABOUTAZCATS.com
If the proving point to recruits for college coaches these days is the ability to produce NBA talent — and by all indications that is the requirement now for top-notch high school recruits — then UA’s Sean Miller is favorable compared to Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson at the same point in their careers.
After six seasons as a head coach, Miller has produced one NBA player — Derrick Brown — who was taken in the second round last year, the 40th pick overall by Charlotte. Olson, by comparison, had two players selected from his only Long Beach State team in team in 1973-74 (when he started his Division I head coaching career) and three players from Iowa by his sixth season overall as a head coach.
However, the three Hawkeyes were picked in the fourth round (the NBA draft currently has only two rounds). Not one of them — Dan Frost and Scott Thompson in 1976 and Bruce King in 1977 — ever played in the NBA.
In Olson’s lone season at Long Beach State in 1973-74, Glenn McDonald and Leonard Gray were drafted and subsequently played three seasons in the NBA. Bob Gross played one year under Olson at Long Beach but finished his time there a year after Olson left. Gross then embarked on an eight-year NBA career in 1975. Olson did not scout or recruit Gray, McDonald or Gross out of high school.
Brown played 57 games, averaging 9.4 minutes a game, with the Bobcats during the regular season this year. Xavier won three straight Atlantic 10 Conference Regular Season Championships during Brown’s three-year career and compiled an 82-24 (.774) combined record. He left after his junior season partly because he earned his degree last May, but Brown also suggested to reporters last year that he left early to seize the opportunity after believing his chances for an NBA career were remote when he signed with Miller and Xavier.
He redshirted his freshman season after averaging a pedestrian 15 points a game as a high school senior.
In the end, Olson became known for his ability to churn out NBA draft picks at a high-profile program that he built at Arizona. He produced 53 NBA draft picks, including 32 at Arizona, 13 of which were selected in the first round.
Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose production of NBA players will greatly increase in Lexington, did not produce one NBA draft selection in his first six seasons as a head coach, at UMass from 1988-94.
Similar to Miller, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski started at another institution (Army) for his first five years before coaching his sixth year as a head coach at Duke in 1980-81. Krzyzewski did not produce an NBA draft pick at Army. In his first season in Durham, Coach K inherited 1981 NBA draft picks Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard. Banks played five seasons in the NBA and Dennard two.
Krzyzewski, of course, did not scout or recruit Banks or Dennard and he coached them for only one season.
The point is, if the argument is made that Miller does not have a background of producing NBA players, it’s because he simply needs more time. Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy guard Doron Lamb, a Kentucky-bound recruit who officially visited UA, mentioned to The Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe last week that Arizona “needs more players.” That was his reason for not coming to Arizona.
Miller can develop players. Brown proves that and Williams is a testament to that fact this season.