Probe: UConn violated NCAA rules
Correction: The length of a phone call between University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun and professional sports agent/former UConn student manager Josh Nochimson in August 2007 was incorrectly reported in the original version of this story. Nochimson and Calhoun spoke for 3 minutes, 58 seconds.
The University of Connecticut violated NCAA rules in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles, a six-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports has found.
Miles was provided with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation by Josh Nochimson – a professional sports agent and former UConn student manager – between 2006 and 2008, according to multiple sources. As a representative of UConn’s athletic interests, Nochimson was prohibited by NCAA rules from having contact with Miles and from providing him with anything of value.
A UConn assistant coach said he made Nochimson aware of the Huskies’ recruitment of Miles. Later, the assistant coach said he knew that Nochimson and Miles had talked.
The relationship and UConn’s knowledge of the situation are potential major NCAA violations. The findings are part of Yahoo! Sports’ ongoing look into the changing role of agents and their impact on college basketball. Agents aren’t just recruiting players from college programs, they are recruiting players for them, according to an NCAA official.
Josh Nochimson – Former UConn student manager turned professional sports agent. Provided lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation to Nate Miles during UConn’s recruitment of the player. Filed papers with the NBA Players Association to decertify himself as an agent in 2008 after Richard Hamilton accused him of stealing more than $1 million.
Nate Miles – Talented but troubled 6-foot-7 player from Toledo, Ohio who attended five high schools in four states before reaching UConn. Expelled from the Big East school for the violation of a restraining order in October 2008. Currently attending College of Southern Idaho.
Tom Moore – Former UConn assistant coach who pointed out Miles to Nochimson in fall of 2006. Now head coach of Quinnipiac University, a Division-I program in Hamden, Conn.
Sean Patterson – Former Toledo area basketball coach who became Miles’ guardian.
Jerry Easter – Inner-circle advisor who Miles referred to as an uncle. Maintained an active role in Miles’ recruitment.
Jim Calhoun – Hall of Fame UConn coach who declared Miles had “as much basketball ability” as any recruit he ever signed. Made 16 phone calls with Nochimson, including a three-minute, 58-second call the week Miles was to make one of his campus visits.
The UConn basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five different UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, including 16 from head coach Jim Calhoun. Yahoo! Sports obtained the records through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents were requested in October and received two weeks ago. Many of UConn’s communications with Nochimson were clustered with calls and texts to Miles or his inner circle.
UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway and Calhoun declined comment through a university spokesman late Tuesday.
The school issued a statement Wednesday that read, in part: “The University takes very seriously its responsibilities of NCAA membership and will do all that is expected to follow up on any information related to possible NCAA rules violations.”
UConn may have committed major recruiting violations by exceeding NCAA limits on phone calls to Miles and those closest to him, records show. The NCAA allows a single phone call per month to a prospect or his family in a player’s junior year of high school. That limit was exceeded over several months from late 2006 into 2007. In December of 2006, for instance, Tom Moore, then a UConn assistant coach, made 27 calls to Miles’ guardian and a person Miles referred to as an uncle. Moore made three calls to Miles.
The relationship between Miles and Nochimson began at a Nov. 11, 2006 high school tournament in suburban Chicago. While sitting with Nochimson and watching Miles play, Moore told Nochimson that UConn was actively recruiting the player. Later that day, Miles said, he was introduced to Nochimson.
Moore said he knew the player and the agent were in contact after the event. Records show that Moore traded multiple text messages with both Miles and Nochimson in the evenings of Nov. 11 and Nov. 12, 2006.
Eight days later, Miles, a Toledo, Ohio native, committed to UConn. Calhoun later said the sinewy 6-foot-7 prospect had “as much basketball ability” as any player he’d ever brought to Connecticut.
From that first meeting until Miles was expelled from the university in October 2008 for violating a restraining order brought by a female student, Nochimson played an integral role in the player’s life. The agent guided Miles, who had social and academic difficulties, through a jagged journey to Connecticut.
Nochimson filed paperwork with the NBA Players Association to decertify himself as an agent in June 2008 after UConn All-American and Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton fired him as his business manager and accused him of stealing more than $1 million.
“He was pretty much running his business as an agent off of me,” Hamilton said.
Nochimson declined to comment for this story.
Miles is now at the College of Southern Idaho, a junior-college powerhouse, trying to revive his college career. Moore is now the head coach at Quinnipiac University.
In the current climate of college basketball, where agents dip into the prep ranks to secure future professional clients, Nochimson’s is a common tale. Agents increasingly “babysit” or “quarterback” a young prospect through his amateur career, including one season of college basketball, in hopes of landing him as an NBA client. Agents will place a prospect with a specific school where the college coach will reciprocate by delivering the player back once he’s ready to turn pro.
The agent-as-college recruiter is a problem an NCAA official described as “serious.”
“We’re concerned in terms of agents steering certain kids to certain [schools],” said Rachel Newman Baker, the NCAA’s director of agent, gambling and amateurism activity. “We’re concerned about agreements under the table between agents and even our college coaches.”
On the morning of Nov. 11, 2006, Moore and Nochimson attended the Chicago Prep Classic at the J-G Center in Deerfield, Ill. The stands were filled with the usual array of spectators at national high school tournaments – college coaches, agents and runners all blending together.
“Josh’s job was to see who the up-and-coming high school talent was in the country,” Moore said. “That was part of the reason he was there.”
Moore had his eyes on Miles, who had left behind his family and two former high schools in Toledo for a fresh start at Cornerstone Christian of San Antonio.
The log of phone calls made by former UConn assistant coach Tom Moore on Dec. 22, 2006 when the Huskies were trying to find a new prep school for recruit Nate Miles.
|12:39 p.m.||Moore calls Josh Nochimson, one minute|
|12:40 p.m.||Moore calls Sean Patterson, eight minutes|
|12:48 p.m.||Moore calls Jerry Easter, two minutes|
|12:50 p.m.||Moore calls Nochimson, one minute|
|1:28 p.m.||Moore calls Nochimson, one minute|
|1:32 p.m.||Moore calls Nochimson, one minute|
|1:39 p.m.||Moore calls Easter, one minute|
|1:44 p.m.||Moore calls Nochimson, one minute|
|2:15 p.m.||Moore calls Nochimson, one minute|
|2:17 p.m.||Moore calls Nochimson, one minute|
|10:08 p.m.||Moore calls Sean Patterson, two minutes|
|10:10 p.m.||Nochimson calls Moore, who clicks over from Patterson’s call. Nochimson and Moore talk for 39 minutes.|
|10:50 p.m.||Moore calls an unidentified 419 area code (Toledo) number, one minute|
|10:53 p.m.||Moore calls unidentified number again, one minute.|
|10:58 p.m.||St. Benedict’s coach Dan Hurley calls Moore, 3 minutes.|
|11:26 p.m.||Moore calls Hurley, one minute.|
|11:28 p.m.||Moore calls Nate Miles and talks for 21 minutes.|
|11:58 p.m.||Moore calls Hurley, one minute.|
Moore had a relationship with Nochimson that traced back to the agent’s undergraduate days at UConn when he served as a student manager for the basketball program.
Once Hamilton was drafted to the Washington Wizards in 1999, Nochimson went with him as a personal assistant and business manager. By May of 2006, the NBA Players Association certified Nochimson as a players agent. He soon signed one of the NBA’s best young players, Luol Deng, of the Chicago Bulls, whose brother, Ajou, played at UConn. Nochimson also represented Ajou.
At the J-G Center, the young agent was working to increase his talent base. Moore was there recruiting Miles.
“I told Josh who Nate was, and that Sean Patterson was probably back in Toledo, and that Jerry [Easter] was his uncle and probably was one of the key people in his recruitment,” Moore said.
By that evening, Miles said he had met Nochimson. That interaction was the first of what appear to be numerous NCAA violations.
As an alumnus and former part of the men’s basketball program, Nochimson is defined by the NCAA as a representative of UConn’s “athletic interests.” As such, NCAA rules say he could “not be involved in the recruiting process” and could “not make any contact, including telephone calls and letters, to a prospect or the prospect’s family, on or off campus.”
The fact that Moore knew Nochimson and Miles were talking was a violation. When asked if he had lost sight of the fact that Nochimson wasn’t just an NBA agent, but a representative of athletic interests, Moore said: “Probably. I looked at him as a young professional working as an agent, doing what he does in his career.”
In the days that followed the Nov. 11 introduction of Miles and Nochimson, Moore and Nochimson traded four phone calls, including a 24-minute conversation.
The next weekend, Miles and members of his inner circle from Toledo made an “unofficial” visit to UConn. Because Miles was an underclassman, the group had to fly and rent a hotel in Hartford at their own expense. Moments before a UConn game against Mississippi on Nov. 19, Miles told Calhoun that he planned to enroll at UConn.
That UConn was aware of the improper Nochimson-Miles relationship could be a further violation, according to the NCAA. Under NCAA rules, UConn is culpable for contact and benefits provided by any representative of its athletic interests regardless of the school’s knowledge. In this case, Moore not only admitted to Yahoo! Sports, “I know that Josh contacted Nate a couple of times,” but documents show pages upon pages of phone and text correspondence.
After initially telling Yahoo! Sports that he had never heard of Nochimson, Miles then described the role that he played in his life. Miles said Nochimson would advise him, “Just do what I need to do in school and then college, so I can make my life a whole lot easier than it had been.”
Over the course of two interviews, he offered conflicting statements. Miles said Nochimson “respected Coach Calhoun to the fullest,” then said that he and Nochimson didn’t discuss UConn’s recruitment of him. Miles said Nochimson told him what coaches and scouts were looking for and “he tried to teach me the game” only to later say “I never was with him … in person.”
Miles and Nochimson were seen together in suburban Chicago in 2007 and 2008. Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports that Miles stayed at Nochimson’s townhouse in Glenview, Ill.
Miles would stay with Nochimson on school breaks, when the agent would try to secure workouts for Miles with professional trainers.
In one interview, Miles couldn’t remember where he stayed in Chicago. In another, he said that it was with a cousin who was “in college in Chicago,” but declined to name the individual or the school.
Nate Pomeday remembered Nochimson arriving unannounced with Miles at his gymnasium in Lake Forest, Ill. Nochimson had discussed using Pomeday’s school at the time, Lake Forest Academy, as a place to enroll other basketball players. Pomeday said he never worked out Miles.
“Josh brought [Miles] by one time,” said Pomeday, formerly an assistant coach at Lake Forest now on staff at Oregon State University.
“Nate was using Josh as an advisor of some sorts,” Pomeday said. “Nate had been on campus with Josh. I knew who Josh was, and I wasn’t working his guys out. I was not working that young man out. Why Nate Miles was hanging with Josh was not for me to answer.”
George Christakis, the owner of George’s What’s Cooking restaurant, in Deerfield, Ill., said Nochimson regularly brought basketball players, including Miles, to his restaurant and paid the bill.
“He brought players here all the time,” Christakis said. “Maybe two or three times a week.”
The players were allowed to order dinner at the restaurant without Nochimson, Christakis said.
“Josh would call ahead and say they were coming to eat,” Christakis said. “He would give me the names of who was coming. At the end of the week, [Nochimson] would come in and pay the bill.”
Christakis remembered Nochimson giving him Miles’ name as a customer permitted to order meals on the tab.
Miles denied that Nochimson ever bought him dinner.
Nochimson’s involvement with Miles extended beyond providing extra benefits, including connecting with people and personnel on Miles’ behalf.
Miles attended high schools in Ohio, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina. One of his prep coaches, Chris Chaney of the Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C., said Miles and Nochimson spoke weekly.
Here are text messages from Nov. 11, 2006, between UConn recruit Nate Miles, pro sports agent Josh Nochimson and former UConn assistant coach Tom Moore.
|6:42 p.m.||Moore texts Nate Miles|
|6:42 p.m.||Moore texts Miles|
|6:45 p.m.||Moore texts Josh Nochimson|
|9:59 p.m.||Moore texts Miles|
|9:59 p.m.||Moore texts Miles|
|10:11 p.m.||Nochimson texts Moore|
|10:11 p.m.||Miles texts Moore|
|12:24 a.m.||Miles texts Moore|
In 2007, Nochimson solicited Steve Pratt, the CEO of Full Package Athletics in Northbrook, Ill., to work out Miles.
“Josh called me,” said Pratt, who has trained several NBA draft prospects. “He was advising Nate, and he asked me to work with him because he thought I’d be good with him. He said the kid needed direction and I could help the kid with some issues.”
Pratt said that he never discussed payment with Nochimson because he never agreed to work Miles out.
That same year, Miles played for T.J. Gassnola on the New England Playaz AAU team in two national tournaments. “I thought I was watching George Gervin,” Gassnola marveled.
To get access to Miles, Gassnola said he had to call Nochimson and Sean Patterson, a Toledo-area coach who had taken over Miles’ guardianship.
“Josh has been very good to that kid,” Gassnola said.
When Miles struggled to gain eligibility to play basketball at UConn in the spring of 2008, Nochimson started to explore professional options for the player. He hadn’t played a full season of high school basketball in three years, but his uncanny shooting ability still made him an intriguing possibility for the pros.
So, Nochimson arranged a multi-week stay for Miles at the International Management Group’s Basketball Academy and Pro Training Center in Bradenton, Fla. If Miles did become eligible for college basketball, the time and experience at IMG would still be a benefit.
“Josh called and said ‘I’ve got a guy, Nate Miles, who I need to place down there to prepare for his professional career,’” IMG’s Director of Basketball Mike Moreau said through a spokesman.
Nochimson had a history of sending his clients to IMG, including Luol Deng.
Miles said Nochimson had nothing to do with his attendance at IMG. Moreau, he said, “is lying to you if he said that.” When asked what incentive Moreau had to lie, Miles ended the interview. He has not returned messages since.
While at IMG, Miles was treated to a state-of-the-art coaching, skill development, training and nutrition. IMG declined to say who paid Miles’ tuition, which runs several thousand dollars a week for most of its individual basketball programs.
Miles was a 20-year-old freshman when he finally gained his eligibility and enrolled at UConn for a summer session in June of 2008. On Sept. 22, a 19-year-old female student turned Miles into campus police, alleging that he physically and sexually assaulted her. She said that he ground his nails into her leg when she wouldn’t have sex with him, slapped her and became possessive of her. The campus police arrested Miles on Sept.25 and issued a restraining order.
Within 16 minutes of being served the order, Miles called the woman. He was charged with a felony for violating a restraining order and referred to counseling which could lead to the charges being dropped. The case is pending in Connecticut superior court.
On Oct. 2, before UConn held its first official practice, the university expelled Miles. Patterson, Miles’ guardian, told the Hartford Courant that the player had been “railroaded.”
Soon after the expulsion, Nochimson had several discussions with two NBA Developmental League coaches about the possibility of Miles joining the minor league for the 2008-09 season.
Nick Nurse of the Iowa Energy said he talked with Nochimson about bringing Miles to an open tryout later that month in Hoffman Estates, Ill. By attending the tryout, Nochimson wondered whether Miles could sidestep the D-League draft in November and get claimed as a territorial pick by the Energy.
Nochimson also reached out to Clay Moser, the coach of the league’s Rio Grande Valley (Texas) franchise. Moser said he checked with D-League executives, who informed him that Miles was ineligible to play in the D-League for the 2008-09 season because he had been enrolled in college that semester.
Instead, Miles enrolled at the College of Southern Idaho. He played nine games and averaged 19.1 points.
Because of NCAA transfer rules, UConn is Miles’ only Division-I option for the 2009-10 season.
Since his expulsion, the UConn coaching staff has continued recruiting Miles, College of Southern Idaho coach Steve Gosar said.
In August 2007, Miles traveled to Connecticut for the Jim Calhoun Elite Basketball Camp. That week, Calhoun placed a phone call to Nochimson. They talked for three minutes and 58 seconds.
Mostly, it was Calhoun’s coaching staff who stayed in contact with Nochimson. Communications between the staff and Nochimson from November 2006 to October 2008 averaged more than two calls a day, according to phone records.
For UConn, Miles fit the profile of the program’s great tradition of wing players. Nochimson loved to tell people that Miles reminded him of Hamilton. Calhoun had constructed his two-time national championship program around future NBA All-Stars, such as Hamilton, Ray Allen and Caron Butler. UConn started the season with 13 players in the NBA, the most of any college program in the nation.
Calhoun considered Miles to be his next perimeter star.
Hours after Moore helped deliver one of the nation’s best players into the Huskies’ recruiting class, past midnight on Nov, 19, 2006, the assistant made calls to three of the important people in Miles’ life: Patterson, his guardian; Jerry Easter, who Miles referred to as his uncle; and his Cornerstone Christian coach, Walter Webb.
And at 12:50 a.m., a call blinked into Moore’s cell.
It was Nochimson. They talked for nine minutes.
Two minutes later, Moore called Easter.
As a recruit, Miles was high maintenance. His life was in perpetual flux. After he committed to UConn, much of the coaching staff’s energy recruiting him was spent working on high school transfers and eligibility issues for college admission.
A little over a month after his commitment to UConn, Miles left Cornerstone Christian and needed to transfer. Moore made calls to prep schools in the Northeast, including St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., which he courted to take Miles as a student. St. Benedict’s and coach Dan Hurley are known for strong discipline and academics. Under NCAA rules, college coaches are allowed to make those calls on a recruit’s behalf.
Between Dec. 22 to Dec. 27, 2006, Moore made a flurry of calls to those closest with Miles. They would come rapid fire, back and forth on call waiting among Hurley and Team Miles – Miles, Easter, Patterson and Nochimson.
Across those five days, Moore placed calls to Miles and his advisors – exceeding the NCAA limit of one call a month. This included three calls with Patterson, three with Easter and two with Miles. Moore also made several calls to Hurley about Miles enrolling at St. Benedict’s. In that period, Moore called Nochimson 11 times.
In the end, Hurley passed on Miles, and the search for a school continued.
After the New Year, the pattern of calls to the same four people repeated. This time Moore tried to find Miles a home at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass. Miles spent several days at the school, said Bill Barton, the former admissions director and coach.
“It’s almost like a tryout we do at the school,” Barton said. “Nate wasn’t a good fit.”
After Moore left UConn in April 2007 to become head coach at Quinnipiac, UConn’s contact with Nochimson intensified. Assistant coach Patrick Sellers would exchange 223 calls or text messages to Nochimson over the next year and a half. In June 2007, Sellers had nearly six hours of conversation with the agent from his office line alone.
As UConn’s director of basketball operations, Beau Archibald communicated with Nochimson. Archibald and Nochimson were friendly dating back to the Huskies’ 1999 national championship season. Archibald was a member of that team. When the NCAA deemed Miles eligible for the 2008-09 season and he arrived in Storrs, Calhoun assigned Archibald to be Miles’ campus mentor.
Archibald and Nochimson exchanged at least 1,153 telephone and text messages. Not all the records obtained by Yahoo! Sports detailed text messaging.
Nochimson communicated with the rest of the coaching staff too. Besides Sellers, assistant Andre LaFleur exchanged 54 calls or text messages with Nochimson. Before he left for Quinnipiac, Moore totaled 119 contacts with Nochimson. Calhoun had 16 calls.
In the week following Miles’ arrest, Archibald and Nochimson exchanged multiple calls a day.
On Oct. 2, 2008, a UConn judiciary board expelled Miles. His dream of chasing a national title as Calhoun’s starting shooting guard this season was over. That day, Archibald and Nochimson traded 12 calls.
Those calls came months after Hamilton, one of the Huskies’ all-time greats, had discovered alleged transgressions on an American Express card in his name but mailed to Nochimson’s address. Hamilton said he then found additional funds and 1.4 million Delta frequent flier miles missing before Nochimson admitted misappropriating the money. The total came to more than $1 million, according to multiple sources.
“He admitted to stealing,” Hamilton said. “He cried … I always remember my agent saying, ‘Rip, don’t put your hands on him because he’ll be able to sue you.
“[Nochimson] was doing everything off of me. He looks like a high roller. It’s hard for a kid because you may not have anything and you see this guy.”
Hamilton’s discovery didn’t stop UConn’s contact with Nochimson. The phone calls and text messages went on well past Miles’ expulsion. Even now, Moore is unwilling to disavow his old student-manager saying that they still haven’t discussed the charges that he stole from Hamilton.
“I consider him a friend and a very loyal, trusting person,” Moore said.
Yahoo! Sports staff writer Josh Peter contributed to this report.