So, what are they looking for? How do they evaluate players? Do they have preconceived notions? Do opinions change?
The Daily News talked to a dozen head coaches and spotted dozens more in the stands. By NCAA rule, they cannot talk about specific players, but they can talk about what they want and how they go about making it happen.
"You obviously look for a minimal level of talent," Butler's Brad Stevens said. "Then, you look for things that either fit into your system and how they will be able to excel at your school … This is just the starting point for a lot of that. Or you're well down the road and you've already evaluated that and now you're just watching and following."
So, coaches come with a list. They also come with an open mind. Stevens remembers focusing on another player when Gordon Hayward caught his eye.
"The obvious guys get recruited by everybody early," Stevens said. "You've got to keep watching, try not to make opinions on them at too young an age."
Unlike some schools, Butler does not offer scholarships to freshmen and sophomores. They want to watch the development.
Roy Williams (North Carolina) was seated right behind Stevens in the gym Wednesday night. Later, as the games were ending, Williams was spotted at Dalessandro's down Henry Ave. Scott Drew (Baylor) and Tony Bennett (Virginia) were a few booths from a pair of basketball writers (that would be me and DN alum Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com) across the street at Chubby's. If you wanted to coach watch, this was the spot.
You could have even seen Larry Brown's return to Philadelphia. It has been a quarter century since LB was part of this scene.
"When I was doing it, the only thing was the Nike [camp] at Princeton," said Brown, now the coach at SMU. "When you're at UCLA or Kansas or North Carolina, you look at four kids. Here, we look at 400."
And none of these players has any idea Brown is the only coach to win an NBA (Detroit) and NCAA (Kansas) championship. It was after that 1988 title at KU that Brown went to the NBA for good. Now, he is back in college.
Brown knows what a good player looks like. He also knows none of the really good players are looking at SMU.
He told one of his assistants: "Let's not get our hopes up too high."
When Brown first went on the road in April, he went to a high school in Texas, another spot in Little Rock, Ark., and then Hampton, Va.
"I was big in Hampton," Brown said. "They don't know who I am, but they know I coached Allen."
Yes, they do. Allen Iverson and Larry Brown, still together after all these years.
Brown hung out with John Calipari (Kentucky), Bill Self (Kansas) and Sean Miller (Arizona) a lot in the spring.
"They're looking at one court and I was, like, running everywhere," Brown said.
Any time he saw a player from Texas, he ran to look at him. And noticed Rick Barnes (Texas) and Drew were already there.
"We got a lot of work to do," Brown said.
James Madison coach Matt Brady is a renowned skills coach, but he also loves recruiting.
"As I move along in this business, I'm looking for guys that are unselfish, make the extra pass, will really defend," Brady said.
The summer games are not the ideal setting to see what a player might look like on a team. The players are thrown together at the last minute so cohesion is a rumor.
"I'm not watching the best players here obviously," Brady said.
Brady has six or seven players his staff has been targeting. Some are at Philly U. Others will be at the adidas camp in Indianapolis and still others at the Nike camp in Northern Virginia. Coaches are shuttling among those locations as the summer recruiting season gets under way.
Fran Dunphy (Temple), Jay Wright (Villanova) and John Giannini (La Salle) were at Philly U. Wednesday night. Bruiser Flint (Drexel) was there Thursday as were Giannini and Wright. Phil Martelli (Saint Joseph's) and Jerome Allen (Penn) were on the road somewhere. Assistants are also out there searching.
This is about being seen as much as seeing. Coaches want to make sure the players they have contacted notice them in the stands. All of them wear a school shirt of some type. The coaches also notice each other.
"Everybody's looking around seeing who's at the game, how many games they're at, what other guys they're looking at and at what position," Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. "They know we're going to be here. We know they're going to be here. We want to make sure we show our faces and [the players] see us."
Tubby Smith (Minnesota), Brad Brownell (Clemson), Josh Pastner (Memphis), Anthony Grant (Alabama), Patrick Chambers (Penn State), Travis Ford (Oklahoma State), Mark Fox (Georgia), Frank Haith (Missouri), Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt) and Mick Cronin (Cincinnati) were all in the house.
Mark Turgeon (Maryland) is looking beyond just basketball skill.
"I am watching them as people as much as basketball players," he said.
Maryland is still trying to add to its list. Thus, Turgeon is staring at the players he has already contacted. And checking those he might want to contact.
"My assistants obviously see more players than I do, but this a great opportunity for me to see a lot of kids in a short amount of time," Turgeon said.
Sean Miller was a great player at Pittsburgh. He has also proved to be one of the country's best coaches, first at Xavier and now at Arizona.
"July is a great way to clearly indicate who you want the most," he said.
Coaches can't talk to players at these games. The talking and cajoling has already started, though. And it will continue.
Two of Philly's best — Rysheed Jordan (Vaux) and Miles Overton (St. Joseph's Prep) — are on the same team. Many coaches from many places are interested. The top coaches are very enamored with the Harrison brothers (Aaron and Andrew) from Richmond, Texas. Larry Brown has no chance.
There are approximately 100 players at the camp. Hundreds of coaches are in town to check them out. The futures of both will be determined by correct evaluation, a good bit of schmoozing and, eventually, decisions. n
Contact Dick Jerardi at firstname.lastname@example.org