clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

David Salinas, under investigation for Ponzi scheme before apparent suicide, tied to Lute Olson

David Salinas, an investment-adviser and founder of a Houston summer league basketball program, was found dead at the age of 60, according to CBS Sports. The news here is that the report written by Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman says Salinas might have had a Ponzi scheme going, and the United States Security and Exchange Commission was scrounging around and looking into Salinas' dealings with several high-profile basketball coaches. One of those named in a report obtained by CBS Sports was former Arizona Wildcats head coach Lute Olson.

More damning reports came Monday evening, when the Houston Chronicle reported that one coach, who remained anonymous, said Salinas once offered him money in exchange for steering players in his basketball program to go to the coach's school.

"He hinted he could steer players my way," the coach told the Chronicle on Monday. "I never got involved with him, period."

Baylor's Scott Drew and Texas Tech's Billy Gillispie, among many others were also named by CBS Sports as coaches invested in Salinas' business, though they didn't speculate as to what exactly the money was going toward.

"But the list is much longer," a source told Goodman and Parrish. "Lots of coaches had money with him, but they're going to try to deny it and just hope it doesn't come out."

Is it just me, or does this sound like the last basketball scandal at Arizona? A person with money (a.k.a Jim Storey) dealing with Olson illegally (whether intended by Olson or not) while also being involved in putting on a high school basketball tournament (a.k.a Arizona Cactus Classic). You remember that, right? AAU teams coming into McKale and the tournament's event staff working really, really closely (physically or otherwise) to the Wildcats' basketball staff. Too many things pointed to that being shady (hence the sanctions, and trust me, I read through the NCAA investigation and broke down the accusations and sanctions) and this looks eerily similar. 

Of course, there's no pointing fingers or accusing people yet. But there's a reason the story broke in a manner other than a simple news story about the death of a prominent figure in the Houston AAU scene. From the CBS account:

The reason some might be concerned about their financial connection to Salinas is because it's unclear how the NCAA would view college coaches investing money with the founder of a summer basketball program that supplied recruits to several universities over the years. 

According to the Houston Chronicle, Salinas was a booster for both the University of Houston basketball program and Rice.

But it's more shocking that Salinas was tied to multiple players, some of whom ended up player at schools that the records show Salinas dealt with. One such player is Houston native Jawann McClellan, the former McDonald's All-American who saw his Arizona career unfortunately not live up to expectations because of knee problems.

While it's unclear from the piece what exactly coaches were paying Salinas for, the lead to CBS's story says it's possible the SEC could find fraud that would have cost coaches millions of dollars. But as far as Salinas' reputation, it didn't appear he was known to be scheming or shady.

"I trusted David," said one college coach who spoke to on the condition of anonymity. "All of us liked him a lot. This is a complete shock." Added another coach who also spoke to on the condition of anonymity: "I can't believe this happened. He's about the last guy I would've figured would do something like this."

And whether this turns out to be a wild goose chase, and no matter the connections with Arizona or other schools, it shouldn't be a immediate concern for the sake of the Wildcats' basketball program in its current state. Will the NCAA really come down hard with a new coaching staff in place? Maybe, maybe not. It's looking like the NCAA might not have anything on hoops programs that dealt with Salinas at all, though the Chronicle's findings could hint otherwise should the NCAA pursue an extensive investigation.

The bigger concern seems to be in Salinas' own dealings with coaches and the so-called "Madoffing" that could be going on here.

One of the coaches involved called late Sunday and offered comment. He asked that his name not be used but said, "We're not concerned about the NCAA right now. We're just scared we got Madoffed."

Then again, some people in the know seem to think this whole deal is under-blown at this point. John Infante, author of The Bylaw Blog (@thebylawblog on Twitter), believes this is a pretty big deal. This is what he Tweeted at sports columnist Dan Wolken following the news:

If there are no NCAA violations, it's still the biggest story in college sports this year.

More information is sure to flow in during the next few months -- if not days -- however long this investigation will take. Both the Security and Exchange Commission and the NCAA will detail Salinas' business separately, and the actual death of the man is of course a shocking and curious end in its own right, especially if it was indeed a suicide.

Will this turn out to be nothing for Arizona? Maybe. But where there's smoke, there's fire. Unfortunately, there is now a chance there's another fire in the Arizona men's basketball program, just as we thought we could finally move on from the last one.


Editor's note: This story was updated with information from the Houston Chronicle on Monday at 7:55 p.m. PDT.