Among the myriad weirdnesses of Eddie Sutton’s hiring at San Francisco a week ago was what, exactly, led the program to replace its coach 10 games into the season with one of the most notoriously shady hoops hustlers this side of George Raveling. Andy Katz started sussing some of that strangeness out shortly after Sutton’s hiring, and in the process introduced the world to a pair of hoops dudes so shady that they make the Suttons look like a Romney family portrait taken with the “rustic plantation backdrop” at Olan Mills. Although I guess that seems pretty unappealing, too. Anyway, here’s Katz; the extensive quoting is for those without ESPN Insider:
USF athletic director Debi Gore-Mann said she didn’t know that (on-leave Coach Jessie) Evans wouldn’t be the coach for the rest of the season until he told her on Wednesday that he needed to take a leave of absence.
Yet Sutton said he spoke to Gore-Mann a few days prior about the job possibly being open. Gore-Mann then said she was only talking to Sutton about long-term coaching, not short term.
But even more potentially damning are sources close to Evans saying that he didn’t ask for the leave of absence at first. A source told ESPN.com that there was correspondence between Gore-Mann and Evans earlier on Wednesday that said she wanted his resignation by the end of the day. Gore-Mann disputed that claim when ESPN.com discussed it with her later in the day.
The connection between Sutton and Gore-Mann was orchestrated by David and Dana Pump (above), twin brothers who work the grassroots basketball scene with teams called Pump ‘n Run out of the Los Angeles area. The duo has traveling teams, works in the ticket business and is extremely tight with a number of high-profile coaches and athletic directors.
The Pump brothers have been running a search firm called Champ Search for a few years, with their highest-profile school being Tennessee when it hired Bruce Pearl from Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Gore-Mann said without reservation on Wednesday that the Pump brothers put her in touch with Sutton, and she worked through them to get Sutton. Earlier in the day, Dana Pump told ESPN.com that he had “not much at all” involvement in the search. When pressed how much he facilitated the Sutton hire, Pump said, “no comment.” Yet, Gore-Mann was quite open about her reliance on the Pump brothers. Sutton praised the Pumps for the contributions to basketball over the years.
If you believe that Evans asked for a leave of absence and then Gore-Mann called the Pumps and hired Sutton — sight unseen — on Wednesday within a few hours, then it would might be the quickest turnaround of a coach and search process. (sic?) Clearly, there had to be a pre-existing conversation for this to be done in a matter of hours.
Both the grammatical errors and the sense that some weird thing was going on with the ticket-brokering, AAU team-sponsoring, Pump family were in the original. Sportsline’s Gregg Doyel — a whipping boy of long standing and rich justification around these parts — actually has some good info on the Pumps in this piece. The article is typically unpleasant, overstated and ineptly written — there’s some random ad hominem stuff that’s uncalled-for even by my low standards; the Pump Brothers are compared to “a pimple that needs to be popped,” which might actually be grosser than the gross misconduct Doyel later describes — but I sure didn’t know a lot of this stuff:
(The Pump Brothers have) been a two-man conflict of interest for years, operating a huge youth basketball operation that sends players to college programs every year — while also buying coaches’ Final Four tickets and charging Division I schools money to advise their coaching searches. Over the years the NCAA has helplessly watched the Pumps consolidate their power by working in college athletics’ enormous gray area.
Even if this is simply what it appears to be — a program that’s fallen a long way since The Quinton Dailey Era doing a favor for two notorious hoops fixers and their longtime buddy, for which that program either will or will not be repaid — it’s pretty dodgy. But whatever it is, it won’t last long: Sutton announced today that he won’t be staying on at USF next year. This either is or is not a non sequitur, but isn’t time that the NCAA started paying some regulatory attention to the AAU world in which hustlers like the Pump Bros and Sonny Vaccaro flourish?