Ben Howland: ‘Our Game Is Not A Joke’

Geno Auriemma, arguably the greatest women’s basketball coach ever, went on the offensive Wednesday, saying that men’s college basketball is “a joke.”

“The game’s a joke,” Auriemma said. “It really is. I don’t coach it, I don’t play it, so I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator – forget that I’m a coach – as a spectator watching it, it’s a joke.”

To Auriemma’s point, scoring is down in the men’s game, but why? Are coaches controlling too much of the game? Can players just not make shots? Do there need to be rule changes?

“Well, first of all, it’s not a joke,” Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Let’s get that straight. And I like Geno a lot. I worked the Michael Jordan Fantasy Camp with him. But it is a completely different game than the women because of the size of the athletes – and just how quick and athletic (they are). What’s happened is, these players are so athletic – they’re so god defensively. The things you control most night in and night out is your effort and your preparation to guard your opponent. It’s not the same skill level as putting the ball in the basket or making a pass. That’s the key to (developing) a great player – having great athleticism and size combined with skill level.

“When you think about our game today,” Howland continued, “the coaching has just continued to evolve with the use of film and how you’re defending and how you’re preparing. And I also think that players today do less skill development as youngsters coming up. Kobe Bryant talked about that this year where you look at the European stuff that goes on over there. There’s more skill development.”

Indeed, in Europe, there’s an emphasis on dribbling and passing and shooting. The focus goes beyond just playing in AAU tournaments.

“That’s the key,” Howland said of skill development. “We have to get more of that in our youth leagues. That’s something that USA Basketball, I think, is beginning and starting to do and starting to preach, and I think will help kids – because it’s better for everybody. The best players are the skill guys. The guys that are playing right here right now – when you look at the skill level of the Wisconsin players or the players at Kentucky, their skill level is combined with great size and great athleticism. There aren’t that many great skill guys that come right out. It takes time.

“But I don’t think the game’s broken,” Howland continued. “I like going to 30 seconds. I think it’d be crazy to move the (three-point) line out. And the reason I say that is that everybody is going to pack it in and zone it in. If you want to watch teams play zone, move the three-point line further away from the basket – because it cuts the percentage even more and it encourages more zone. I think that’s crazy.”

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