Is an NBA championship more desirable than an NCAA basketball title?

I have seen several people comment that John Calipari's tweet that he will be at Kentucky next year, now supplemented by this Lexy audio where you can hear him say it in his own words, with his own voice, is essentially a deception.  That's what you mean when you say you don't believe a person when they make an unequivocal statement like Calipari did.

Of course, the Big Blue Nation is now used to this, and instead of jumping into the breach and defending the Kentucky coach from his detractors again, I am going to ask this question -- is winning an NBA championship more impressive than winning an NCAA national championship?  Is it a more worthy life goal for a coach?

The answer, I suspect, is largely dependent upon where the person answering the question's fanhood lies.  NBA fans who are only casual fans of college basketball would surely answer in the affirmative.  College basketball fans who think the NBA game is less worthy would likely think the negative.  There is really no right or wrong answer, I suppose, but the reason it is worthy of discussion is that you would think it would figure into any decision Calipari might have to make, depending on what the ultimate outcome of the Summer of Lebron is.

The NBA championship has officially been around since 1947, three years as the Basketball Association of America and the rest as the NBA.  During the nearly 63 years of the NBA championship series, there have been a total of 17 different teams winning the title.  Currently, there are 30 NBA franchises, and of those 30, only 12 of the currently active franchises have won championships under their original names (although six winners have changed cities).  Four of the franchises have been renamed, and one championship winner no longer exists (the Baltimore Bullets).

There have been five NBA coaches who have won four titles or more -- Phil Jackson (10), Red Auerbach (9), Pat Riley (5), Ray Kundla (5), and Greg Popovich (4).  Of these, I would venture that only Jackson, Auerbach and Riley are actually household names.  Popovich is certainly known to anyone who has watched the NBA in recent times, but hardly leaps to the tongue.  Ray Kundla, who lead the Lakers (then in Minneapolis) to 5 titles, is the answer to a trivia question.  NBA coaches who have won four titles or less are known only to fans of the league and the fans of their respective programs.

College basketball has been around much, much longer than the NBA -- almost twice as long.  The NCAA Championship has only been around since 1939, but even so, that's 12 years longer than the NBA Championship.  During the history of the tournament, 35 teams out of the now 347 division I colleges fielding teams (note:  this has changed substantially over the yeas) have claimed championships.

Household name coaches in NCAA basketball for their work done on the floor include John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby Knight (although Knight is at least as well known for his antics as his victories).  Fans of the college sport, and even casual fans from other sports would also recognize names like Bill Self, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Lute Olson, Rick Pitino and John Calipari.

What the NBA has going for it are larger team fan bases, more player name recognition, more marketing and apparel tie-ins and even more media exposure as an institution than the NCAA championship.  I can't say for sure, but I would guess that there are substantially more casual NBA fans worldwide than of college basketball.  The NBA also unquestionably has the best players, since only the cream of the college crop ever make it in the Association.

What the NCAA has going for it are arguably more passionate and dedicated fans.  Fans of college basketball tend to be less "fair weather" and more likely to follow the team even in down years.  The NCAA tournament is also unquestionably more difficult for a given team to win, even considering only the historically best teams.  This is due largely to the single-elimination design of the NCAA tournament versus the series format of the NBA.

The NBA and NCAA also present distinctly different challenges to coaches.  The NBA season is much longer requiring many long trips to faraway cities.  Coaching in the NBA is more an exercise in business management than actual coaching, since the players are often employed more like financial assets in a Monopoly game.  The NBA requires a coach to manage personalities more than anything else, as he is coaching mostly full-grown men making six and seven figure salaries per year.  There are no NCAA violations to worry about, no grades to manage, and virtually no job security whatever.  There is very little actual teaching of basketball done in the pros -- mostly just skills refinement for which the players are primarily responsible.

The NBA coach has a much shorter season with many fewer games and less time on the road.  He has to teach his charges everything from fundamentals to the speed of the game.  The coach must manage his players in every detail from grades to rules compliance to media appearances to matters of discipline.  He must constantly recruit replacements due to a high turnover in addition to his coaching duties, and the most time he can ever get out of a player is four years.  Job security is better than the NCAA, but far from tenure.  His public relations responsibilities in jobs like Kentucky and North Carolina are substantial.  Overall, even though he is gone from his home town less, he is arguably away from the house even more.

In the end, I see no practical difference between the value of winning an NBA or NCAA championship as a coach.  I would, in fact, be inclined to argue that the NCAA coach is more meritorious in terms of pure basketball coaching, but others may rationally disagree.  Overall, though, I have a hard time with the default idea that an opportunity to coach LeBron James to an NBA title is so tempting that no college coach could turn down the opportunity.  I find such opinions entirely suspect to say the least, even though I can't reasonably reject them completely.

I still insist that no matter what LeBron does, absent kidnapping or blackmail, will convince Calipari to leave this year.  Your mileage may vary on this view.

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