Rooney: CU Buffs’ Tad Boyle could be put to the test with hiring of Anthony Coleman

New assistant coach was mentioned during testimony at NCAA trial

Helen H. Richardson / THE DENVER POST
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle gained a reputation for being the only Pac-12 coach willing to speak out about the NCAA scandal.
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Tad Boyle is putting his reputation on the line by adding Anthony Coleman to his coaching staff.

Heading into his 10th season as the head men’s basketball coach at Colorado, Boyle over the past two seasons has publicly taken issue with his rivals at USC and Arizona regarding the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, a soap opera that eventually led to guilty pleas for now-former Pac-12 Conference assistant coaches Tony Bland (USC) and Book Richardson (Arizona).

After a home win on Jan. 6, 2018 against a 14th-ranked Arizona squad, Boyle uttered the jubilant and now-infamous “Hell yes!” response when asked during his postgame press conference if he felt extra satisfaction in knocking off one of the programs embroiled in the FBI mess. This past season, Boyle’s emphatic fist-pumps toward the CU cheering section as the final seconds ticked away in a win at USC incited a terse exchange with Trojans assistant Jason Hart.

Along the way, Boyle gained a reputation for being the only Pac-12 coach willing to speak out about the scandal while others danced around the issue. Love it or leave it, Boyle always has offered refreshingly honest insight when asked.

That frank honesty and chip-on-his-shoulder approach could be put to the test with the addition of Coleman, whose past three seasons at Arizona State was preceded by a stint as a sports marketing manager at Adidas that has at least been tangentially scrutinized by federal prosecutors.

To recap, Coleman was one of several Adidas figures who, according to a March 2018 report by the LA Times, had their communications with North Carolina State athletic department officials subpoenaed by a grand jury. Such a subpoena isn’t necessarily cause to pull the fire alarm. Just because someone worked for Adidas, the apparel company at the center of the still-ongoing FBI corruption drama, doesn’t mean that person was taking, or soliciting, bribes. Coleman’s job likely had him initiating thousands of conversations with hundreds of basketball programs.

Coleman’s tertiary role in all these shenanigans had been relegated to that lone NC State subpoena until last week, when, according to reports from CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, who is covering the trial, financial advisor-turned-FBI witness Marty Blazer said Coleman, then at ASU, was one of several assistant coaches who didn’t receive bribes for no other reason than he simply didn’t possess the requisite clout with top-tier recruits.

If Boyle had been in his car when this news broke early last week, just as Coleman’s hiring was becoming official, one can almost imagine the knuckles whitening around the steering wheel while cold sweat trickled down his forehead.

In an interview with BuffZone.com, Coleman denied Blazer’s testimony, labeling it, “absolutely false.” And for his part, maybe that sweating-bullets scenario for Boyle was just the opposite. CU’s leader says he has done more background diligence with Coleman than any other coach hiring in his career, even reaching out to the NCAA compliance office for additional information. Boyle, obviously, hasn’t wavered in support of his latest hire. To date, Coleman has never been linked with any NCAA infractions — either on the Adidas side of the equation or at ASU.

Yet what’s at stake for Boyle isn’t any potential NCAA fallout. The NCAA still hasn’t seen fit to lift a finger against any of the schools involved in the FBI probe, though the ongoing testimony in New York makes it difficult to believe something, someday, might finally befall coach Sean Miller and his Arizona Wildcats. This is a test of conviction for Boyle. In a world where reality typically takes a back seat to perception, having Coleman’s name mentioned in the FBI probe, no matter how tenuously, is a significant risk for a coach who has riled Buff nation with a young, up-and-coming team that, presumably, has been built the right way in order to take aim at topping those scandal-laden foes in the Pac-12 standings next season.

Boyle could have landed any number of qualified assistant coaches. Boyle wanted Coleman, backtracking on his original stance he might take a little time to replace former assistant Kim English in order to get him.

Assuming Coleman’s name remains an obscure anecdote when, or if, the cloud of the FBI probe eventually fades, Boyle will have scored a small victory against the tawdry machine of college basketball. If Coleman helps land recruits like ASU’s Luguentz Dort, whose arrival in Tempe was roundly credited to Coleman, all the better for the Buffs.

If not, folks at UA and USC might have their own reason to cry, “Hell yes!”