March Madness may mean more than you think...
2012 has been an interesting year in college hoops around the Bay. Cal and Stanford each had decent showings in the watered down Pac-12, while St. Mary's went 14-2, on their way to the NCAA tournament with the Golden Bears. Wackier still was the Santa Clara Broncos going 0-16 in the West Coast Conference this year, a shock to say the least.
All their coaches are safe, but just about everywhere else in college hoops the coaching carousel starts to spin harder this time of year, giving a whole new meaning to the term March Madness for some trying to keep their jobs.
And as the money grows and collegiate athletics slowly evolve more into the professional sports realm, college coaches find themselves in a bit of a no man's land where greatness and revenues gets paid accordingly (see John Calipari) while good might only get you a pink slip (see Bruce Weber).
But if college basketball is turning professional, shouldn't their coaches be represented like professionals?
One man who thinks they should is Steve Kauffman of Kauffman Sports Management Group (KSMG), who is branching out to the to give college coaches the type of representation they deserve.
"Coaching is coaching," said Kauffman, "except for the overall quality of the athletes in the NBA and the recruiting aspect in college, the duties they have are quite similar. All coaches need to have more choices when choosing representation."
Kauffman has a long history in the sports management world, becoming a player representative at the age of 27, managing greats of the game like Dominique Wilkens and Doc Rivers. He became the commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) at age 29, and is known for his innovative contractual skills.
You may not have heard of him yet but you are likely familiar with Steve's work, the creator of the ‘player opt out' and ‘love of the game' (originally titled ‘summer injury protection' by Kauffman) clauses that have become staples of many a player contracts today.
"There are a few distinctions relating to college contracts that actually allow for more creative negotiations."
He took a risk in 2008 by transitioning into strictly NBA coach and management representation, likely leaving millions of dollars on the table to give pro coaches a better option when choosing an agent (he currently represents the Warriors' Mark Jackson and Michael Malone).
Now he's doing the same for the college game, working to get college coaches the money and security they deserve.
"I started to contemplate representing coaches when one of my NBA clients mentioned the idea 4 years ago," said Kauffman, "I did some consulting work for a firm known as ‘Next Level' who reps college coaches. "I felt there was a void in college coaching representation. Coaches needed more options in choosing professional representation."
But often with ‘professional representation' in the collegiate ranks comes issues with player-coach tie-ins, where decisions get made based on what players may or may not decide to join a certain program. Kauffman doesn't have any players amongst his clientele, avoiding any potential conflicts of inflicts with those issues completely:
"I loved representing players, but unfortunately, the competition to represent professional athletes, particularly I believe in basketball, is not quite above board. We would never pay a kid, an AAU coach, or assorted characters that claim they could deliver the player for a certain price. I want to be picked for my expertise and experience, not for greasing the right palms."
With five college clients under their belts and counting, KSMG is positioning themselves to become a leader in college coaching representation, getting March Madness back to the actual game and not the lunacy that comes with retaining your position as a college coach.
"It's refreshing and brings peace of mind to our clients that we have no interest in any players," said Spencer Breecker, client services manager and director of the college division at KSMG, "They are confident that our focus is on them and their success on and off the court. Steve's track record certainly deserves that trust."
As long as March Madness continues, so will the mania of trying to keep your job as a college coach. Whether you win or you lose, the pressure will be weighing on you come springtime.