Seth Davis, a Duke graduate and current writer for Sports Illustrated, has a piece up on college basketball programs that hire assistant coaches explicitly in order to lure recruits to campus.

If you perused the list of the top-rated high school players who signed letters-of-intent earlier this month, one entry may have caught your eye: James Harden, a 6-foot-5 guard at Artesia High in Lakewood, Calif., signed to play for Arizona State. It’s been a long time since the Sun Devils inked a top-flight player from southern California (RISE’s No. 28 player in the class of ’07), so Harden’s commitment is no small matter for first-year coach Herb Sendek.

Look a little closer, however, and you’ll discern some rather connectable dots. Last June, Sendek hired Artesia’s head coach, Scott Pera, to be his director of basketball operations. Sendek also offered a scholarship to Derek Glasser, Artesia’s point guard who had previously planned to walk on at USC. Then, on Aug. 9, Harden gave Sendek his oral commitment.

Bob Huggins famously acted similarly upon arriving in his new job at Kansas State, and plenty of other coaches have done the same.

Davis opines a bit:

Now, I’m not saying Sendek hired Pera and signed Glasser solely for the purpose of convincing Harden of coming to ASU. That, of course, would be against NCAA rules. What I am saying is, if Sendek hired Pera mostly for the purpose of landing Harden, there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, you could argue it would have been foolish for Sendek to have done otherwise. Because if he didn’t hire Pera, someone else might have, and that someone could have landed Harden as a result.

I must confess, I have come a long way on this issue. When I first broke into covering college basketball more than a decade ago, I was shocked that these types of package deals went down. It seemed coaches everywhere were giving jobs to high school coaches, AAU/summer coaches, fathers, uncles, distant cousins, best buddies and the like for the express purpose of recruiting a player. I knew this had to be unethical because nobody ever admitted to what they were doing.

But the more I’ve covered this sport, the more I’ve come to understand just how common these package deals are. Given all the other nefarious activities taking place in the underworld of recruiting, the package hire actually looks quite tame by comparison.

Read the whole thing.