Why is 'completely irrelevant' hoops executive making $1 million annually?

Jim Haney speaks at the Division I Issues Forum at the 2010 NCAA Convention in Atlanta. (Getty)

The masthead on the National Association of Basketball Coaches website proclaims the group to be “Guardians of the Game.” It is a grandiose statement that, in a time of crisis within the profession it allegedly serves, has many of its members skeptically rolling their eyes.

The 92-year-old organization, which has 4,500 members in the college and high school ranks, has a stated purpose of working “to further the best interests of the game of basketball as well as the players and coaches who participate in the sport.” But many of its current and past members described the NABC as a lightweight in terms of addressing serious issues, and several were shocked to learn that longtime executive director Jim Haney has been making millions annually in a low-impact leadership role.

According to the NABC’s public filings as a non-profit organization, Haney made $1.17 million in 2016. From 2013-17, the most recent five years of available documents, the 70-year-old Haney averaged more than $1 million per year.

Given the federal investigation and ensuing scandal that has enveloped college basketball for the past 20 months, tainting the sport’s coaching fraternity, several NABC members questioned what Haney is doing to earn that handsome salary. In troubled times, the one-time head coach at Oregon and former commissioner of the Missouri Valley and Big West conferences has kept a very low profile.

“If you’re going to guard the game, let’s go,” said ESPN college basketball analyst and former college coach Dan Dakich. “Don’t just guard the game when it’s time to hold a banquet and hand out an award. Call out the coaches who are cheating. Condemn them. I think [the NABC leaders] have shown themselves to be weak, completely irrelevant and might as well not exist.

"I could say the same about some of the ‘quote-unquote’ leading coaches. I'm disappointed in our Hall of Fame coaches for not doing anything. What the hell do these guys have to lose by coming out and being a voice? It would help college basketball if some of these guys stood up. Got to make sure your own house is clean first, though."

The first stated goal on the NABC website is to “promote the ideals of integrity, sportsmanship and teamwork among men's basketball coaches and the players whom they coach.” With coaches’ integrity under siege, their leadership has gone almost completely silent in terms of the federal trials that led to arrests, plea deals and/or convictions for four assistant coaches and several others associated with the college game.

ESPN analyst and former coach Dan Dakich is concerned about the NABC's role on the basketball landscape. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

“It’s insanity,” University of Hartford coach John Gallagher said. “I mean, do you know how many coaches say, ‘What does [Haney] do?’ Every time we get on a [conference] call, he says, ‘Hold on, guys, let the process play out. Let’s see what the FBI comes up with.’ How about we take a stand, Jim? I wish the organization as a whole took a stand against cheating more.”

On Aug. 30, 2017, the NABC announced that Haney had received a multiyear contract extension, the terms of which were not disclosed. Four weeks later, the sport blew up. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FBI held a news conference to reveal its investigation into corruption in college basketball and announced 10 arrests, including four Division I assistant basketball coaches.

At the time that news shook college hoops, Haney issued a statement that said the “allegations of recruiting improprieties across the college basketball landscape have shaken the game and the coaching profession to the core. As role models and leaders of young men, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of lawful, ethical behavior – on and off the court. These actions, if proven true, are not indicative of the character of the greater college coaching community, and we remain confident in our NABC members’ shared commitment to integrity.”

The statement ended with a promise that most college coaches have found unfulfilled: “Should the progression of this case ultimately indicate a pressing need for reform within our sport, the NABC will unquestionably be on the forefront of those efforts.”

As events unfolded, the NABC has been nowhere near the forefront. The inaction has rankled many coaches, including Penn’s Steve Donahue, who decided to not renew his membership after a 30-year run as a member. “I don’t want to be a part of an organization that supports this behavior by its members,” said Donahue, the former head coach at Cornell and Boston College. “Nothing has been done. We always look for the NCAA to do something, but why doesn’t our organization do something?”

In a 30-minute phone interview this week, Haney said he could understand why coaches were rankled. He maintained that the NABC had a hand in influencing the Rice Commission and wanted to work toward solutions. He said he’s long held a philosophy that “you work with people and not against people,” which is why, in part, he and the NABC haven’t been particularly outspoken. He also said the organization has followed the NCAA’s lead to let the legal and legislative process play out. “I think it’s frustrating,” Haney said. “I get that. I can understand why coaches are frustrated. I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong, you try and allow due process to take its course. That’s sort of the position that we’ve taken.”

In early October 2017, when the NCAA announced the formation of the Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on College Basketball, Haney issued a statement. A month later, the NABC formed an ad hoc committee to “address pressing issues facing the sport.” He said at the time the organization “is committed to taking ownership of the issues that impact our game” and pledged to help find solutions.

In February 2018, Haney issued an update on the ad hoc committee’s work, which included a meeting with some members of the Rice Commission. The NABC leaders in attendance for that meeting were Haney, then-Washington State coach Ernie Kent and then-NABC president Bill Self of Kansas. The presence of Self at that meeting became the subject of mockery two months later, when a federal indictment alleged that the mother of one prized Kansas recruit and guardian of another received thousands of dollars from Adidas via an AAU intermediary to secure their commitments to play for the Jayhawks.

Haney called criticism of Self’s role “fair in 20-20 hindsight,” but said that Self’s history of recruiting high-profile players gave him valuable perspective. “Time will tell whether, in fact, the NCAA feels he violated NCAA rules,” Haney said. “I thought his perspective he brought to the discussion with the commission was very insightful and helped the commission.”

After the Rice Commission released its report on April 25, 2018, Haney produced another statement, plus a rambling, seven-minute video addressing the findings. And that’s been about it in terms of formal statements from the NABC on the biggest scandal to hit the sport in its near-century of existence.

The NABC has issued more than 70 news releases since the one in response to the Rice Commission report, and none of them has had to do with the investigation of the sport. Two federal trials laid bare the pervasive cheating schemes within college basketball, implicating dozens of schools, coaches and players. Meanwhile, Haney stayed mostly silent and far out of the spotlight.

“They should have a strong voice during this FBI investigation,” said ESPN analyst and former coach Fran Fraschilla, a 32-year NABC member. “They should be quoted every day in the newspaper — and not just on the negative things, but the positive things we do in the profession.

“I don’t know what they’re doing. I used to wonder what they did. Now I don’t even think about them.”

A complicating factor has been the makeup of the organization’s board. Leadership positions have gone to many coaches whose careers and programs ran into significant NCAA off-court issues — Kelvin Sampson at Oklahoma and Indiana, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried and Kentucky’s John Calipari. That perhaps made it increasingly hypocritical for Haney to speak out.

Haney acknowledged that presidents and board members getting into NCAA issues wasn’t a good look for the NABC. “I think that’s a valid concern,” he said. “When those gentlemen came on the board, there were none of those negative elements or comments being made. There were no NCAA investigations taking place. Clearly if you’re a member of the association and look back and see someone who sat on the board and all of a sudden they’re being penalized by the NCAA, that’s not a good message.”

Too many coaches, the NABC’s general silence has come at a time when its voice is needed most.

“The ethical track of our profession has gone downward, not upward,” said former La Salle coach John Giannini, who is the director of the center for sports communication and social impact at Rowan University (N.J.). “I would say that the NABC has been really quiet throughout the FBI trials. I think an opportunity was really missed. I don’t think the NABC or the NCAA has done more than the occasional lip service to do anything about it.

“Ethically, everyone has turned a blind eye in leadership from the NCAA to NABC. I’m not saying the answers are easy. I’m stunned at the lack of meaningful discussion.”

The new NABC president, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, inherits this complicated landscape and said he’s already received an earful from coaches on topics ranging from the new recruiting calendar to the NABC’s lack of action in the wake of the scandal. Multiple coaches told Yahoo Sports that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has been ranting privately about the organization’s shortcomings for the past month. (Izzo declined comment, as he often does on topics that could be perceived as controversial.) Brey said he’s feeling out the landscape.

“I’m two months in, I’ve heard all the concerns, and I think it’s a goal to get the NABC more engaged,” Brey said. “It’s clearly a concern among the coaches, and I’ve heard them the last few years.”

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is the NABC's president. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Where does the NABC’s money come from? Division I head coaches pay $450 in dues and full-time assistant coaches pay $140. At that level, those costs are typically covered by the athletic department or the school’s basketball budget. Division II, Division III and other head coaches pay $165 and full-time assistants pay $140. All junior college coaches pay $85. High School coaches pay $40. The organization’s public documents show $9.8 million in total revenue in 2017 and $8.6 million in expenses. Haney said they have at least 10 full-time employees.

The most tangible perk of NABC membership is access to Final Four tickets and hotel rooms — but that also embedded a scam element within the organization. One aspect that helped membership swell over the years was the ability of coaches to scalp their tickets, which was much easier when they were given paper tickets. For years, there was a teeming scalping market that centered around the coaches' Final Four hotel. “I can’t tell you how many guys came in on Thursday and left on Saturday with a pocket full of money,” said former Vermont coach Tom Brennan.

Haney said his contract was set to expire in September 2019, but the NABC board asked him to stay on — with the understanding that it could put forth a succession plan at any time. He said that since 2018 he’s worked primarily from a family farm in Georgia, as opposed to the organization’s offices in Kansas City, Mo., in part to care for his wife’s 92-year-old mother. (Haney’s wife, Carol, also works for the NABC as senior director of internal operations. Her salary is not listed on public documents.)

“I don’t set my salary,” Jim Haney said. “The board does. And I would just say that from their standpoint that it was appropriate or they wouldn’t have done it.”

Along with dues, the organization also runs a preseason basketball game in Kansas City, created the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and operates the College Basketball Experience in Kansas City. A key revenue stream also comes from a lucrative licensing agreement with the NCAA that was struck around the time that Haney’s salary leaped into the millions. In 2012, Haney made $566,289 and that jumped to more than $1 million the following year. The NABC’s revenue jumped $3 million from 2011-12, escalating from $5 million to more than $8 million, which hints at the financial scope of the licensing agreement with the NCAA and the reasons for Haney’s raise.

Haney said that there’s a provision in the licensing agreement that “we’re not allowed to speak about it.” He added generally that it was a “recognition” that there “ought to be a closer relationship” between the NCAA and NABC. Haney said the two entities acknowledged they shouldn’t be competing against each other on Final Four weekend and tied together the NABC’s All-Star game with the other activities at the Final Four as part of “working together in the best interest of the game.” The agreement, according to a source, also gives the NCAA access to some high-profile NABC coaches for speaking engagements to corporate sponsors around the Final Four and occasionally during the season.

When asked if brokering that agreement led to his salary jump, Haney said: “I would say yes to that … the agreement created choices for the board in terms of how to take this licensing agreement money and how to utilize it.”

Veterans of the NABC board point out that Haney’s salary is comparable to the salary of former American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff. From 2012-13, public documents show that Teaff's compensation jumped from $330,426 to $1,457,094. But Haney makes more than double current AFCA president Todd Berry, who earned $416,690 in that organization’s latest public filing.

The NABC dues scale also is far different from the AFCA's. Berry said his organization has memberships as low as $40 and a top-end dues fee of $200 per year, less than half of the Division I head coach fee charged by the NABC. That's despite the fact that Division I football coaches make considerably more money on average than their basketball counterparts.

Former St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli, a former NABC Board member who is one of the organization’s directors emeritus, gave a balanced perspective on Haney’s role.

He credited Haney for how far he’s taken the organization since Haney began in 1992, calling his role “monumental” in “changing the course of the profession and the game.” He pointed out Haney’s role in bridging the gap between the coaches and the NCAA, as coaches had felt marginalized and their opinions ignored for years. He credited Haney working with the late Myles Brand to help coaches “get a seat at the table.” That started back in 1992, as Haney worked closely with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to help give coaches a voice in NCAA rules and decisions. (For example, Haney pointed out there’s now two coaches on the NCAA men’s basketball oversight committee, of which he serves as a non-voting member.)

But Martelli also criticized Haney and the organization for being passive in recent years as the corruption scandal has roiled the sport. “I think it’s just trying to go along to get along,” Martelli said of the NABC.

And that’s why many coaches wondered what Haney is actually doing to earn his salary. “I don’t think anyone knows what he does,” said Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich. “I don’t know. A million dollars is a lot of money. Jim Haney needs to do a better job of making people realize what he does to justify his million-dollar salary.”

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