NEW YORK -- If Charles Barkley were the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, he would make an immediate change: No player can enter the NBA draft until the completion of his sophomore year of college.
"I think you should have to play in college for two years," Barkley said on Tuesday during a press event at Manhattan's tony Essex House Hotel to announce CBS and Turner's broadcast plans for the NCAA tournament.
"You'll get a lot better in two years than you will playing 30 games. Clearly, the NBA sucks right now. The NBA is the worst it's ever been. I feel bad for the fans because they are not getting a quality product. All the players are making a lot of money but these fans are not getting quality basketball."
On the issue of players like LeBron James jumping from high school to the pros, Barkley said, "There's only one LeBron. Let's be honest here: You look at Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant, Hall of Fame players, but LeBron is the only player in the last 30 years who was good enough to go out of high school. And these other guys are not LeBron James and will never be."
Once again, Barkley will be part of the NCAA tournament studio show group (along with host Ernie Johnson, Clark Kellogg and Kenny Smith) for the Final Four (April 5) and national championship game (April 7). On Tuesday, along with another production announcements, CBS announced that the game time of the championship game had been moved to 9:10 p.m. ET, about 12-15 minutes earlier than previous years.
Barkley said he starts watching college basketball Jan. 1. and has a core group of people he relies on for counsel including CBS colleagues Dan Bonner, Greg Anthony and Mike Gminski. "The NBA is easy," Barkley said. "After two months of the NBA, you can tell the good teams, the bad teams and the pretty good teams. I start on Jan. 1 for college and start calling my coaching friends."
As always, the outspoken Turner Sports analyst was willing to discuss a number of basketball topics, including the latest rumor du jour in New York: Phil Jackson coming to work for the Knicks in an executive capacity.
"I like Phil Jackson and respect Phil Jackson, but coaching is not the problem with the Knicks," Barkley said. "Making bad decisions is the problem. He won't be able to fix this thing for a few years."
Below, we condense some additional thoughts Barkley offered on Tuesday:
On the number of teams in the NCAA tournament: "I like the tournament number where it is at 68. It's a good number. The NCAA tournament is always amazing. It's like the Super Bowl. You can't screw it up. I mean, this year's Super Bowl was awful and it was the most-watched Super Bowl ever. This tournament is amazing no matter who is in it."
On the Knicks: "The Knicks are not a good team. I told you that four months ago. Nothing has changed. What I would tell Mr. (James) Dolan is break this thing down and start over. That's what they have to do. You guys (New Yorkers) are not patient. How has the other way been working for you? Not well, right? You have a bunch of bad contracts and you are screwed for years. Sometimes you have to step back. Listen, what is Phil going do? Carmelo (Anthony) might leave but if he don't leave, he's going to put a big number on your cap. And you still stuck with Amare (Stoudemire) and J.R. Smith's contract. It's a mess." On working a game broadcast during the NCAA tournament: "I would love for me and Dick Vitale to do the First Four. I have always wanted to work with Dick Vitale. I think it would be great. When I brought it up a couple of years ago, they thought I wanted to go to ESPN to work with Dick. It was the total opposite. We would get great exposure for the First Four. It's really stupid that this hasn't happened. It's not a competition. We have the tournament. It would be great exposure for both of us and I am disappointed they have not made it happen."
On court storming in college basketball: "You have to be careful about this. Somebody is going to get hurt seriously. All it takes is one time for a kid to get paralyzed or somebody to get hurt really bad. There is no way to control it, but I think they have to stop it before someone gets hurt."
On TNT colleague Steve Kerr potentially joining Jackson in New York: "Steve is not that stupid. He's not going to come to the Titantic."