Ben Simmons, the exceptionally talented LSU big man who is considered by most a lock to be the first overall pick in this June’s NBA draft, was punished on Saturday for what his coached Johnny Jones described as “academic stuff.” Simmons is a first year player and this will be his only year in college, a result of rules that are still in search of a coherent justification. As an impending one-and-done, one of the pressing questions that arises is what incentive, if any, he has to go to class in this, his final semester at the university (students become ineligible at the end of a given semester, not during it).
So, what was the punishment? Jones didn’t allow Simmons to start LSU’s tilt against Tennessee. Simmons did come in four minutes into the game, and played the rest of the way, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds in an 81-65 loss. Simmons played the entire game once his “punishment” was over, so he ended up logging 36 minutes. In case you were wondering, Simmons has averaged 35 minutes a game over the course of the season. Talk about bringing the hammer down.
Former long-time coach and current analyst Seth Greenberg came on Mike and Mike today to try to explain/defend LSU’s handling of Simmons. Greenberg, who I enjoy as analyst, can be painful to listen to when he’s in collegiate-model defense mode. (Then again, who isn’t?) He said that it was important for the coach not to treat Simmons differently than other players on the team and that sitting Simmons for those four minutes “sent a clear message.”
Greenberg then went into a convoluted digression about how coaches deserve more credit for teaching their players valuable life lessons beyond the classroom.
When you’re using unpaid rental players to boost your money-making enterprise, I guess these are the kinds contortions to which you resort. So even if the kids aren’t really getting anything approximating a meaningful education, Seth Greenberg assures us that they’ve still gotten something useful out of college because he taught them where to put their fork on a place mat (listen to the clip. You’ll see what I am talking about). Greenberg also tried to direct some righteous indignation toward those who say Simmons obviously doesn’t – nor should he have reason to – care about school. It’s true that Simmons himself hasn’t said that. But does Greenberg really want to try to claim with a straight face that he’d be there if not for the NBA rule barring 18-year olds from playing their league?
And for all the talk about teaching life lessons, accountability and doing things the right way, have the Seth Greenbergs of the world ever considered, for even one solitary second, the impact of the blatant cynicism and deceitfulness to which they’re exposing these youngsters, and how that might shape their still-developing sense of right and wrong?