I am thrilled to be able to contribute to The Fatherhood Blog because being a father (and a father figure as coach) has been an important part of my life.
I have been around the game of basketball since I graduated from college in 1980. I spent twenty-three years as a college basketball coach, including nine years as a head coach, and I am now heading into my seventeenth year as a college basketball broadcaster at ESPN.
My first son, James, was born a month before I was named the head men’s basketball coach at Manhattan College in 1992 and my second son, Matthew, was born three years later. To say that they have lived the game of basketball would be an understatement.
Whether it was hanging out at practices or coming on road trips with our teams, the boys were always around. And I made sure that my players knew that I was comfortable with the kids being around. In a way, I was modeling for the players what fatherhood was partly about. When coaches talk about building a “family atmosphere” with their teams, they must truly show it.
My sons also saw the dark side of coaching when their dad was fired twice. That can be a traumatic experience for a child. I made sure they knew it was part of the business and that dad always had a Plan B.
My “Plan B” happened to be broadcasting. I love basketball and love to talk basketball, so it was a great fit. Broadcasting has kept me around something I’ve loved since I was a kid. There’s no pressure and the biggest decision I have to make after a game is where to go to eat.
Most importantly, broadcasting created a life for me where I could have an “off season” and spend the time with my own sons that I had previously spent with other people’s sons. And, because of my sons’ love of basketball, much of that time was spent on the court helping them improve.
I had an intense personality as a coach, but I tried my best not to recreate that personality during our family workouts. I wasn’t always successful. We had a few heated moments that we laugh at now. But it must have worked because both played high school and college basketball. Most importantly, our bond and love for the game grew even stronger.
I was blessed that basketball allowed me to be around my sons quite a bit and to watch them grow up into quality young men. They are both bright enough to have success in any they field or occupation they might have chosen. So what they both decide to do? What their dad did!
James currently works for the Orlando Magic as a video assistant and Matthew is the video coordinator for the Villanova Wildcats and earned a National Championship ring in 2018 at 22 years old. I am proud that they are in the “family business,” but even more proud that they are great young men.
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