Charlotte, N.C. Many of us would like our athletes to stay in school four years. We'd like them to go to class, handle themselves with class and wear handsome blazers when they hit the malt shop Saturday night with Veronica, Betty Lou or (not and) Peggy Sue.
But we don't live in that kind of world, and Chris Paul and Rashad McCants don't, either.
Paul might be the best point guard in college basketball. He announced Thursday he was turning professional after two seasons at Wake Forest. He will be one of the first players selected in the NBA draft. Genuine point guards are rare, and Paul is genuine.
An NBA scout compares him to Philadelphia's Allen Iverson. The scout says quickly that Paul possesses neither Iverson's athleticism nor his outside shot. But like Iverson, Paul goes to the basket every time. And that, says the admiring scout, is rare.
McCants played three seasons at North Carolina and leaves with a national championship he helped earn.
He is quick and strong, has pretty moves and a nice touch.
But he's not a lottery pick, and he could drop to the bottom of the first round. McCants is closer to 6-foot-2 than the 6-4 at which he's listed, and, despite his strength and his moves, he's not a great ball handler. He'll no doubt play in the NBA. But he might have to spend time with a team in Italy, Fargo or Asheville first.
McCants and Paul are entitled to leave early, and we are not entitled to criticize them for it. North Carolina's other star underclassmen -- Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton and Sean May -- also are free to go.
As the traffic on I-77 and I-485 attests, nobody wants to stay in one place anymore.
That includes coaches. A coach will promise all kinds of things to entice a kid to sign. After the kid signs, the coach will leave for a new gig at a school whose president and athletic director promise all kinds of things.
A coach has to have a big man, has to have a big man, I mean absolutely has to have him.
After the kid commits, an even better big man changes his mind and decides he wants to come, too. The big man the coach had to have, had to have, I mean absolutely had to have ends up playing in a 2,200-seat Division III gym with a scoreboard that's missing two bulbs.
College gets you ready for the real world, and the real world is not what it was when you and Betty Lou stuck his-and-her straws in a 45-cent non-soy milkshake.
Folks in the real world once were thrilled a company deigned to give them a job. They knew if they worked hard they would stick with the company for life.
Who believes that now? Between downsizing and outsourcing, a career that was thriving Thursday could end Friday. You are worth what you are worth at this moment, as in now.
May probably is worth more now, as the best player on the best team in his sport, than he will be next season, at least if Felton leaves.
I love watching May play. But like Paul and McCants, he has to do what's best for him. Because if he doesn't, who do you think will?