College Vs. Pro Decision A Difficult One
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two events took place on Wednesday, miles apart and seeming with no connection beyond a tie to West Virginia University athletics, yet if you look at them closely you can see that each created the same quandary for those involved.
On one hand, there was former West Virginia basketball coach John Beilein, a man who has never been anything but a head coach and who has moved slowly up the collegiate ladder to the pinnacle of his profession at Michigan, where this year, for the second time, he coached the national runner-up team in his Wolverines.
For this, he became the frontrunner of the Detroit Pistons’ search for a head coach in the NBA.
The lure of that has be great, to match yourself against the best anywhere, to coach the best anywhere, to make far beyond the $3.7 million you are making at Michigan, even far more than a renegotiated extension that is currently in progress will bring.
On the other hand, at WVU, two baseball players found themselves drafted on the third and final day of the MLB draft, top hitter Kyle Gray, who was a 14th round pick of anyone’s dream franchise, the New York Yankees, the team of Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle, and slick-fielding shortstop Jimmy Galusky, who was a 20th round pick of the Chicago White Sox.
As odd as it may seem, since both are juniors, each has a similar decision to make as did Beilein, for they, too, have the option of returning to college for another year or to break out on their own and test the professional ranks for the first time.
True, as 14th round and 20th round picks, the money isn’t quite the same and the venues will be rather than Madison Square Garden, TD Garden in Boston, the United Center in Chicago or the Staples Center in Los Angeles; they will be Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas; Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md., or even Monongalia County Ball Park, which is where they would play in college if they returned but also serves as a Pirates’ minor league stadium.
That certainly makes the choice different.
Or does it?
Neither a head coaching job in the NBA does not come with a guarantee of success for a college coach — ask Rick Pitino if you don’t believe that — and certainly there is no guarantees of reaching the major leagues or even surviving in minor league baseball for 14th and 20th round picks.
What does make it the same is that both Beilein and the two Mountaineers had an alluring alternative to taking that leap into professional sports and that was a spot back in college, which, whether you want to believe it or not, is not exactly a bad option.
Beilein rode the minor league buses, or what serves as their equivalent, in his sport having coached at such places at LeMoyne and Canisius before moving on to Richmond, WVU and then Michigan.
He has been, really, the ultimate college coach, a man made for the college game and college players.
At 65 years of age, with a comfortable salary, did he really need to have deal with figuring ways to stop LeBron James and Steph Curry, to deal with the mega egos of millionaire players and to go through the endless travel that is an NBA season?
One suggests that a 35-game college season and the recruiting and coaching that comes with it fits Beilein far better than becoming a rookie coach in a dog-eat-dog league.
The threat of leaving played its role in helping him get the extension he wanted from Michigan.
But what of the players and their dreams and ambitions, those yet to be tested, let alone reached.
College life is a wonderful time in any student’s life, a necessary time both in growing up and gaining an education and degree that will be with you whether you make it to the major leagues or not.
But there certainly is another line of thought there, one that you can give baseball a chance, knowing you can always return to college for the degree, get it in the off-season or online, which are viable options that allow you to chase that dream.
The bonus and minor league money for a 14th or 20th round draft choice is not good, but then neither is it normally for someone just starting out in life out of college with a degree.
And there is also an image that we all around here have, that of Da’Sean Butler, playing what would be his final basketball, laying on the ground in the Final Four with a devastating knee injury that cost him a chance to play in the NBA.
The risk of injury has to be figured in high in the equation, and while you can purchase insurance if you return, that may ease the financial stress, but it cannot make up for losing that chance to wind up playing in Yankee Stadium someday.
Do you go and hope to improve your draft status? Can Kyle Gray improve on a 23-game hitting streak and a .367 average with 14 home runs? Can Jimmy Galusky suddenly become a .300 hitter?
Or do you go and get started, get the professional instruction and play against Latin American and Asian competition mixed in with the best American high school and college talent and find out just where you stand and if you can move up.
Beilein made his choice and it was the right one and it would seem that as different as the question is for the players, this would seem to be the time for them to move on to a higher level and scratch that itch they’ve had since they were little kids.