As he descended from more than 8,000 feet after another long day as a juvenile probation officer at the Spring Mountain Youth Camp on Mount Charleston, Ed O’Bannon decompressed late Saturday night.
He had not been concerned about the NCAA allowing collegiate athletes to be compensated starting in 2021 for their names, images and likenesses, a consequence to the protracted court battle he had waged with O’Bannon v. NCAA.
In his truck, en route home to the Henderson foothills, O’Bannon said he knew no details of the recommendations revealed by the NCAA Board of Governors last week. He believes this to be a counter to the recent trend of hoopsters bolting overseas or to the NBA G League — where Las Vegas guard Daishen Nix signed, forgoing a UCLA commitment — to spend their year of mandated separation between high school and NBA Draft entry.
“I just don’t believe the NCAA is genuine about giving the athletes what they truly deserve,” he said. “It’s just a Band-Aid. It’s something to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you this so you guys are still welcome to come and play college basketball.’ I don’t trust them. They’re crooks.”
O’Bannon, 47, has always parroted the late Jerry Tarkanian in how he calls the company (N-C-two-A). He began distrusting it 30 years ago when UNLV sanctions made him switch his commitment to UCLA. NCAA gumshoes interrogated him in Westwood about an unofficial trip to Las Vegas.
In 2009, he watched his virtual self on a video game being played by a friend’s two sons. That spurred the lawsuit, which escalated O’Bannon’s fury.
“I will never not hate the N-C-two-A … how they did coach Tark," O'Bannon said. "My vitriol and venom toward them was inflamed during the lawsuit.”
O’Bannon had been teaching history at a charter high school 18 months ago when Spring Mountain emerged. He completed law-enforcement academy training. Twelve-hour workdays are common.
“All the kids care about is, ‘Sir, you played in the NBA? Did you play against Kobe Bryant?’" he said. "I tend to gravitate to kids who are in trouble and they tend to gravitate to me. We’re a family. We dig the kids we serve and the kids that we serve dig us.”
Saturday afternoon, he had led 10 of them on an exhilarating five-mile hike.
“They wanted to go out, get some air, walk around and talk," he said. "I’m with that. That’s my life now.”