When Malcolm Turner took over as President of the NBA Developmental League in 2014, the league had 14 teams and was mostly seen as a backwater, a place where post-college basketball players went when they just couldn’t let the NBA dream die and accept a professional career in Europe as their fate in life.
In 2018, the NBA G-League — renamed due to sponsorship reasons (orchestrated by Turner) — has 27 franchises, each of them affiliated with (and often owned by) a parent NBA franchise, and thanks to increased pay and increased opportunities for promotion to the NBA, it’s begun to hoard the kinds of players who in the past would have become stars overseas. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that Luke Kornet and Jeff Roberson would have been plying their trade in Italy, with no realistic options to make a living playing basketball outside the NBA. Instead, Kornet is currently playing for the New York Knicks — after spending much of last season with the Westchester Knicks — while Jeff Roberson plays for the Maine Red Claws. All but a handful of the Red Claws’ games are available to be streamed, and a few are even on real television.
What’s more, Malcolm Turner had no particular reason to want to leave his current job. That Turner is Vanderbilt’s new athletic director suggests that (a) Vanderbilt really, really wanted Turner to be its new athletic director, and (b) Turner sees potential in the Vanderbilt brand.
Which is why it’s so strange to see takes like this floating around the internet:
Malcolm Turner’s candidacy at Vanderbilt emerged almost a month ago. Super strange hiring process, unusual candidate. Never really worked in college athletics. Reaction from people in the business has been perplexed, but we will see.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) December 11, 2018
What’s there to be perplexed about? Well...
They never really went after some of the people who would have been obvious candidates and ended up with a guy from pro sports https://t.co/YrQ0uvtIUI— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) December 11, 2018
It’s telling that in Dan’s phrasing, Malcolm Turner wasn’t the “obvious candidate;” he was the guy that Vanderbilt “ended up with.” (If you really want it spelled out, the Midday 180 today apparently had it covered, regardless of whether you believe what they said. They also apparently went to a place I didn’t think they would go.)
The “obvious candidates” were athletic directors at other “Power 5” universities. It’s a real concern that Malcolm Turner has zero experience at a college athletic department, but it’s not as big of a concern that the revolving door of athletic directors — who come and go at various universities every few years and often seem to be working as much for their next job as their current one (remember that guy at Pitt who decided it was a good idea to hire Kevin Stallings as his basketball coach? Oregon State hired him a few months later) — would have you believe.
It’s at a point where anyone who doesn’t have experience working in a college athletic department will be questioned, and hiring Generic AD from Power Five University will be automatically accepted. What does that sound like to you?
For a long time, college football was a place for exciting, innovative offenses, while the NFL was a staid, boring league where everybody did the same thing that had been long accepted as The Way Things Are Done. Now, the NFL (at least in some quarters) has exciting young coaches with exciting innovative offenses — largely because they got away from hiring the same pool of retread coaches over and over again. Meanwhile, college football has become the land of the retread, and if you’re not hiring a retread, you’d better make sure that your new coach has the correct references on his resume.
Malcolm Turner might or might not do big things as Vanderbilt’s athletic director, but it’s strange that the opposition to the hire is only because the insular world of college athletics wanted someone else from inside the world of college athletics to get the job. If he doesn’t succeed, it certainly won’t be because he did not come from the Accepted Pool of Candidates (as determined by members of the Accepted Pool of Candidates.)