Rod Strickland talks about his coaching aspirations, one-and-done players and what he learned from John Calipari
‘If you have a chance to provide for your family, I think you do that’
During his 17-year NBA career, Rod Strickland was one of the game’s most underrated players. That’s what happens when you play point guard in an era that included John Stockton, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway and Allen Iverson.
At his best, the 1997-98 season with the Washington Wizards, Strickland averaged 17.8 points and 10.5 assists but failed to make the All-Star Game. In fact, Strickland is often mentioned — and this writer is in agreement — as one of the best NBA players to never play in an All-Star Game.
The Undefeated caught up with Strickland recently to discuss his desire to become a head college coach (he’s currently an assistant at the University of South Florida); the development of Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during his one year in college; and what he learned from working under John Calipari, who is the topic of the 30 for 30 documentary One and Not Done, which debuted last week on ESPN.
On interviewing last month for the head coaching position at Florida A&M, and the potential challenge coaching at an HBCU (Florida A&M officials said this week that Strickland was one of 150 candidates who applied for the position and that a decision is expected this month):
I spoke to the administrators at Florida A&M, and I’m hoping they give me an offer and I have an opportunity to be a head coach. When you look at HBCUs you’ve never had super big recruits, but there’s always a first time. It would be an opportunity for me to come in and do something different. Just like [John Calipari], if I walk into that program I want to turn it around. I believe I would have the chance to do something special there.
On what he learned from working under John Calipari for eight years (three years at the University of Memphis, from 2006-09, and five years at Kentucky, from 2009-14, before accepting the assistant coaching job at South Florida):
What I learned from Cal? Accountability and vision. He just dares to be different. In sports there are a lot of copycats, and sometimes in sports people are comfortable following the status quo. When you don’t follow the status quo, people say, ‘How dare you be different?’ That’s what I love about Cal. He goes against the norm, and that’s what my vision will be when I get the opportunity to be a head coach.
On his views on the one-and-done era of basketball, which Calipari has embraced since the 2005 NBA requirement that players entering the draft be at least 19 years old and a year removed from high school:
I don’t think that was his plan, but once he realized he was on to something he ran with it. He knew that these kids wanted to make money as soon as possible, and Cal wanted to get the best players he could. He had this plan to get all of these one-and-done players, and now you see everybody is following his lead.
I don’t think people realize how hard it is with one-and-done players. You bring in new guys, new personalities, and you have so many dynamics between new players and families. It’s challenging because this is a one-shot thing and you’re going to the next group next year. Trust me, it’s not easy doing that year to year.
The criticisms directed at one-and-done players (currently there are 34 one-and-done players on NBA rosters during the playoffs):
Is it complicated to come out after one year and financially take care of your family if you have the opportunity? I don’t think it’s that complicated. At the end of the day, we all strive for a great life professionally and economically. At times I think we forget that this is a big business.
If you have a chance to provide for your family, I think you do that. Coaches can leave and go to another team, but some people criticize a kid for leaving when he has an opportunity to be in the NBA. Marcus Camby made $130 million in his career. Carmelo Anthony is making [$24.56 million for the 2016-17 season]. The cynics say, ‘How dare they leave and make $130 million?’ But how can you be a cynic with someone who’s making over $10 million a year?
I got my degree at 47 (Strickland’s now 50). If that’s something that you’re really serious about, you have plenty of time to get it.
On how much going to Kentucky for one year helped the development of Washington Wizards guard John Wall and other Kentucky players:
When John Wall was at Kentucky, he would get so frustrated. And I would tell him, ‘This is the hardest year of your basketball life. Because when you go to the pros, you won’t have Cal screaming in your ear all day.’
I would tell [Wall] and all the players that this is a different environment and this will help you deal with the next level. I think for some of the kids, like John, the one year is good. Some kids come to college, and a lot of times the adults in their lives treat them like peers. And I don’t think the kids know the difference.
When they came to college, Cal’s not treating them like peers and I’m not treating them like peers. John and the other players knew that they were getting someone who’s going to tell them the truth, and sometimes that truth is harsh.
What they learned at Kentucky was it’s not just about you. I think that lesson helps the players in their development.