When planning to release their documentary about the federal investigation into college basketball, HBO marketers took an undoubtedly strategic approach.
They allowed media to start screening “The Scheme,” featuring agent-runner Christian Dawkins’ role at the center of the investigation, on the exact same day that the NCAA Tournament’s First Four games were scheduled to tip off — and a day or two before featured coaches Sean Miller of Arizona and Will Wade of LSU would be subject to unrestricted media questions at mandatory pregame news conferences.
Then HBO planned the public release for Tuesday, just at the start of what would have been the NCAA’s Final Four week.
All those events are gone now, of course. But there is this: Many people are largely stuck at home because of the coronavirus, with plenty of time to consume streaming movies.
So what will be the net impact on the documentary’s audience?
“I have no idea,” said Pat Kondelis, the movie’s director. “We’ll find out but I have no idea. This is such a weird, surreal situation.”
The same question might also be asked about Arizona basketball fans.
After 2 1/2 years of hearing about Christian Dawkins, the arrest of former UA coach Book Richardson, plus two federal trials that peripherally involved Arizona, have Wildcats fans hit a wall? Will the level of fatigue sap their interest?
Or, with a minor portion of the documentary showcasing previously unavailable wiretapped conversations between Dawkins and Miller, will fans want to hear Miller’s voice themselves and make their own judgments?
There is one certain audience, however.
Sports Illustrated wrote last week that NCAA enforcement representatives will be “watching and taking notes” on the documentary when it paraphrased Jon Duncan, the NCAA’s VP for enforcement.
Only the small parts of the movie touch on potential NCAA issues – “The Scheme” actually spends more time detailing the FBI’s methods — but Wade and Miller can be heard on wiretapped calls with Dawkins in 2017 discussing the recruitments of some top players from the high school class of 2018.
On one, Miller implies that five-star big man Naz Reid is using Arizona as leverage to get a better offer from LSU, where Reid wound up playing in 2018-19.
“He’s going to LSU,” Miller tells Dawkins. “We’re not even bringing him in on a visit. That’s all (expletive). I’m looking at our recruiting board and he’s not even on it. I’ve never talked to the kid. All this (expletive) hype (expletive) on the phone, it’s stupid. He is probably saying, ‘You know what? (Expletive) you. I don’t want 75. I want 120. I may go to Arizona.’ That’s all that was.”
On another, Miller is discussing with Dawkins the recruitment of five-star forward Nassir Little, who was believed to be choosing between Miami and Arizona at the time (he ultimately chose North Carolina).
Miller: “So, Christian, explain to me the difference, in real talk between Brad and Darryl (the director and coach of Little’s club team). Who do I focus on?”
Dawkins replies: “They definitely want to get some (expletive) for themselves because they have been taking care of the kid and they (expletive) like …”
Miller: “Miami doesn’t have an advantage over us in that area, do they?”
Dawkins: “Well, I’ll say this, what Miami does have is Adidas.”
Among the wiretapped conversations between Wade and Dawkins is one in which Wade says of a recruit that “we could compensate him better than the rookie minimum.”
The movie does not have what ESPN reported was a wiretap of Miller discussing paying former UA star Deandre Ayton $100,000, though Kondelis said Dawkins “did have that conversation with Book” on July 20, 2017 — a conversation that is aired in the movie.
“We’ll see how Sean plays it out,” Dawkins tells Richardson in “The Scheme”. “You know what I’m saying? We’ll see if he’s a man of his word. Because he brought it up to me.”
Richardson replies, “Yeah, ’cause he need help. You know what he doing per month? I told you. Ten.”
Of that conversation, Kondelis said:
“Christian again, ironically, is not even the person that asks,” Kondelis said. “Book says, ‘You know what he’s doing a month? And he says ‘10.’ And then Christian’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s paying some real money.’”
Kondelis said Richardson and the FBI declined to participate in the movie. Kondelis said Dawkins was not paid to participate in the film, but that he “did receive something for providing archival materials.”
Miller, meanwhile, has declined to comment on any aspect of the federal investigation over the past two years and a UA team spokesman said Monday that his stance has not changed. (Another message seeking comment from UA administration officials outside the athletic department Monday was unsuccessful).
Miller last addressed the issue with an in-person statement on March 1, 2018, six days after the ESPN report, during which he said he had “never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or representative to come to Arizona. I never have and I never will.”
Dawkins says in the movie that Miller’s statement wasn’t true and that Miller “should be an actor” for his performance in delivering it. But Kondelis said Dawkins believes coaches who pay players are “good guys,” and Kondelis added that neither he nor HBO wanted to get anybody fired as a result.
Before the wiretaps involving Miller and Wade are played, Dawkins says that “lack of evidence was not the reason that (head) coaches were not charged,” and Kondelis says that the movie is really about how all sides involved with “The Scheme” were allegedly scheming each other.
“I’m not trying to be the guy that gets Sean Miller fired. I’m not trying to get the guy to get Will Wade fired,” Kondelis said. “I could not care less. This is not about Arizona basketball or LSU. This story is so much bigger than any of that and it’s bigger than sports, I think.”
Former UA associate head coach Mark Phelps will coach the West Coast Elite’s 17U team, club director Ryan Silver tweeted. The club has been a significant pipeline for the Wildcats, with its alums making up half of Arizona’s active roster this season: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Jemarl Baker, Ira Lee and Stone Gettings.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!