Drawing up a second career (cont.)
Posted: Thursday March 27, 2008 2:47PM; Updated: Thursday March 27, 2008 2:47PM
He played in one All-Star Game, in his third NBA season, when he averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 assists for the Nets. The 6-foot-1 Anderson would finish with averages of 12.6 points and 6.1 assists while passing through nine franchises in 14 years. He had been retired for three years when he paid his own way from his apartment in Pembroke Pines, Fla., to the NBA coaches clinic.
Over an intensive 24 hours, Anderson (and each of his peers) would be asked to present and execute a play on the court as coach; break down film of an NBA game overnight in order to contribute to a chalk-talk the next morning; and participate in a simulated job interview that would be videotaped and edited at the nearby NBA Entertainment studios, providing him with a DVD of his performance to be networked among NBA teams in hope of jump-starting his coaching career.
Anderson stopped playing after his mother, Joan, who raised him as a single parent, died of a heart attack in 2005. He filed for bankruptcy in that year after going through more than $60 million in NBA salaries, and news reports in 2006 accused Anderson of not providing child support for at least five of his seven children.
"My lawyer's fighting her lawyer,'' he said of Tami Roman, the former MTV Real World star who was the first of Anderson's three wives and the mother of two of his seven children. He argued that "she just wanted to put me out there'' by complaining to the tabloids.
The obvious question was whether he was trying to coach for nothing more than the money. Anderson said it wasn't so. "I can eat, I got a nice home in Florida, I'm comfortable,'' he said. "I love the game, I'm passionate. The money will come. My thing is work. I want to work. I never worked in my life.''
Dean Garrett, 41, had tried running several businesses in Minneapolis -- a restaurant, a nightclub, a phone retailer -- following his 14-year career as a 6-11 center in Europe and the NBA. He was focusing entirely now on a career in coaching. "I got involved in businesses with friends of mine, guys I've known my whole life,'' he said. "And now if we saw each other, we'd probably pass by on the street without saying hello. I said enough with that.''
Bo Outlaw, 36, had become a community ambassador in the front office of the Orlando Magic, with whom he spent half of his 14-year career in the NBA as a hyperactive 6-8 forward. "If I decide to do this later,'' he said of pursuing a job in coaching, "I'll have this experience under my belt. As a player, you don't realize how hard it is to be a coach. There's a lot that goes into it that players don't really understand.''
Acie Earl, 37, had played four years as a 6-10 center with the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks from 1993 to '97 before continuing his career overseas. "I played in Kosovo,'' he said. "They move me into an apartment, and the infrastructure is still so messed up because of the [Balkan] war that the power goes out at least once a day. Here I am in Kosovo, the power goes out about 5 p.m. and I'm just sitting there in a dark apartment, and I ask myself, 'What am I doing? I'm 33 years old.' That next week, I went and got my résumé together.'' After four years of coaching in the minors, he is now the freshman basketball coach at Solon (Iowa) High School.
Overton, 38, appeared to be an ideal coaching candidate. As a 6-3 point guard at LaSalle, he was aiming to be a late first-round pick in the 1991 draft until he suffered a severe ankle sprain midway through his senior year. He dropped to the second round (38 picks behind Anderson, who had turned pro as a sophomore), was cut by the Detroit Pistons and played his first pro season in Australia before trying out and signing with the Washington Bullets the following year. He would play for eight NBA teams over 11 seasons. Since retiring in 2004, he had served as a player development director for the Philadelphia 76ers before becoming an assistant coach for St. Joseph's last season.
"I look back and it was a blessing,'' he said of his college injury. "Guys were drafted ahead of me and and didn't play that long. It wasn't always easy, but it worked out in the end.''
While too much had been expected of Anderson as a player, Overton was at the other end of the scale. Near the end of his career, Overton would sign a 10-day contract with a new team, study the playbook overnight and arrive the next day at practice with a grasp of the offense that made coaches love him.
"I ain't looking for nobody to give it to me,'' he said. "I want to earn my way. I did it as a player, and I want to do it as a coach.''
On the second day, they held their virtual interviews back-to-back, the legend and the nobody. Overton aced his, telling Casey, a former head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, that he would preach early-morning workouts for NBA rookies and teach them how to dribble tennis balls to improve their handling skills. Anderson offered no such details apart from promising to share with young players "the dos and don'ts'' based on his own NBA experiences. Casey referred to them both as "solid'' candidates, though he was clearly more impressed by Overton. Of Anderson, Casey said: "He needs to be more organized in helping young players to become better. He needs to be more specific about it than just talking to them and that type of thing.''
Back in his hotel room after the camp, still dressed in his navy suit from the interview, Anderson broke down crying as he recalled the passing of his mother. "It was me, my mother and that basketball. Me and my mother,'' he said. "My kids eat, they got a roof over their heads, clothes. At least I have an apartment; my mom got evicted. We went apartment to apartment in the neighborhood. I lived in three or four apartments. ... Money? I never had it. Then I had it. Now I'm comfortable. I've been through everything.''
Over the next hour, he articulated the kind of NBA coach he will be someday. He will tell these young millionaires to make the most of their careers, to learn from his mistakes. The diagramming, the computer work, the details of organization -- he promised to learn those habits. The NBA game is something he knows deep in his soul. He knows what cannot be taught.
"Somebody is going to see something in me,'' he said. "One GM or coach, one day: 'I need Kenny Anderson. I need him.' "
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