Attorney flexes muscle on Memphis, Nichols gets unrestricted release
Austin Nichols announced that he was transferring from the University of Memphis on July 7th. Exactly seven days later, he finds himself flexing his legal muscle on Memphis.
Memphis granted release last week but under unfavorable conditions to Nichols and his family. It was also after a two-day holdout where Memphis was threatening to refuse his release outright. Once they did cave to threats of legal action by the Nichols, they granted release but under the conditions that Austin could not transfer to any American Athletic Conference team, plus Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa or providence.
So Tuesday the Nichols family counter-offered with their attorney, Don Jackson. They clearly thought the blocking of Virginia was purely a move out of spite. The reasoning for blocking Virginia, Iowa, Providence is that they could potentially play each other in the Emerald Coast Classic in the 16-17 season. Well that was obviously a poor excuse to block Virginia, a place Memphis knew recruited Austin in high school. That obviously had to be a punishment move by Memphis.
The Nichols family thought so, and so did their attorney Don Jackson who added this,
“This is a calculated effort by a dysfunctional staff to punish a player for taking a step to remove himself from a failing program.”
While there is nothing uncommon about schools blocking other schools from a players transfer request, it is uncommon for it to get as far a legal battle. Of course Memphis was blocking Nichols from Tennessee and Virginia out of spite. They knew both recruited him heavily. I honestly don’t see anything wrong with that, especially with potential that there could be tampering. Not inferring that there has been in this case, only acknowledging that it’s always a possibility. Teams have to protect themselves from that sort of thing the best they can.
I have to say however, Memphis has looked rather bad in this situation, ultimately caving on all demands of Nichols and his attorney. But the last thing Memphis wants is this getting into a court battle that would never come out in their favor. It would be a huge black eye on future recruiting efforts. Also, it could end up being the implosion of Josh Pastner’s tenure as head coach of the University of Memphis. Losing Nichols in the first place is at the very least partially being placed in Pastner’s lap. You even get the sense that there are more Memphians on Austin’s side, than Memphis’ on this dispute.
The reality of the situation is that Austin may now go to any school he wants…and Memphis will lose a hometown NBA prospect. You name a school, they want Austin Nichols. It’s looking early on like Virginia is the most likely landing spot for Nichols. Why the legal fuss if they weren’t? No matter who Nichols decides to transfer to, that team gets a whole lot better by adding him. He is the type of player that makes you a final four team. Memphis fans will have to get over losing him quickly. Though they should be somewhat use to losing players recently as this is the seventh player Josh Pastner has lost in one years time.
So why did Austin Nichols leave Memphis?
There have been a number of things reported about the circumstances that led to Austin requesting his release from Memphis. Allow me to give my theory of how we got to the events of this past week. And this theory is strictly based on what I have heard reported about the situation from various media members close to the situation and chatter about the town. I believe most of these reasons to be plausible and likely:
Austin Nichols was heavily recruited out of Briarcrest High School in Memphis (a school I myself was close to attending). He had a hard decision to make between Memphis, Duke and Virginia. He dreamed of being a star in his hometown, a school that was in the National Championship game just five years prior. He also dreamed of playing for Coach K at Cameron Indoor Stadium. His momma wanted him at home in Memphis. His daddy wanted him to leave Memphis and go to Duke or Virginia, two serious final four contenders at the time. He chose to stay at home, be loyal to his city and his family and play for the University of Memphis Tigers! But two years later, that plan had him on a Tiger team that suffered their worst season in 15 years and his once Top 40 draft stock was declining rapidly under Josh Pastner. His dad knew this and also knew that it was time to get off this sinking ship. He expressed this concern to Austin, and may have been for a year, or even since the beginning. After Austin’s AAU buddy from East High School in Memphis Nick King transferred in March, he might have realized his dad was right. He had talked himself into leaving the University of Memphis. By the way, Austin had a cheerleader girlfriend at the University of Memphis. Once he told her about his plans to leave Memphis, they got into it. Of course a girl would not like this news of possibly losing her potential NBA athlete boyfriend. And I’m sure Austin had been wrestling with the decision as well. Either way, they are on the rocks and that 100% commits Austin to leaving Memphis. Along with the fact that he see’s the arrival of the Lawsons’, and their dad being in Pastner’s ear all year next year, being a threat to his, as well as the team’s success next season. He knows he has to leave Memphis and alerts the university of his plans.
While I myself do not blame Austin for wanting to leave the Josh Pastner program, I will say his timing is very bad for the University of Memphis. They lose their best player 3 months away from the season with no time to make it up in recruiting. But the bottom line is it didn’t have to get to such a hopeless situation. The University of Memphis has lost seven basketball players in about 10 months time. That’s crippling, I don’t care what the circumstances are. And it has all happened under Josh Pastner’s watch. Eventually that has to be the big story in all of this. Either the Lawson’s will save Pastner’s job for another year, or be the final nail in the coffin. Possibly even before the end of next season. Losing Austin Nichols hurt, and may have even scared the University of Memphis.
Austin Nichols, under the rules of transfer, must sit out this next season. He will then have two years of eligibility, with any school of his choosing. Virginia is the early favorite to land Nichols.
What do you think about seven players from a team transferring within one year? Let us know in our comment section below.
Brandon Reid covers NCAAB and The University of Memphis for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
He is from Memphis and graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He loves the Memphis Tigers, Grizzlies, Titans, and Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“I promise to bring information, insight, and strong opinion. Let the debate begin.”
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid