“My man. My man!”
Sure, that is how Kenny Anderson solutions his telephone once I name on behalf of SLAM. “I’m ending up at Starbucks with my spouse. Let’s speak in 20 minutes.”
“You bought it, my man,” I reply in form.
The hilarious and all the time constructive Kenny Anderson character you’ll be able to comply with on Twitter (@chibbs_1, although he says he’s on hiatus ’til March…extra on that in a bit) is that means in actual life, too.
Anderson, the 50-year-old former NBA All-Star who spent 14 years within the L and is now the top coach at NAIA Fisk College in Nashville, actually simply desires to do good.
“All the pieces is figuring out for me the best way God deliberate,” Anderson says once we soar again on the telephone after his customary morning Starbucks run. “I’m simply right here to assist others. It’s not about Division I or Division II, simply serving to. That’s why I took this job. I like that we’re constructing one thing.”
Although I do know the ins and outs of his profession in addition to anybody’s, as Kenny himself says, “The younger children don’t know me too effectively, however their mother and father do.”
So let’s evaluation actual fast.
Kenny Anderson was, actually, one of many most interesting prep gamers ever. The late, nice scout Tom Konchalski known as him “the best highschool level guard of all time.”
A rail-thin six-footer who grew up within the LeFrak Metropolis housing complicated in Queens, Anderson was a four-year phenom at Archbishop Molloy in Queens, main the Stanners to 2 CHSAA titles and scoring a then-New-York-state-record 2,621 factors in his profession. As a senior, the ballhandling wizard averaged 35 ppg on 77 (!!) % capturing from the ground en path to successful consensus Nationwide Participant of the Yr honors. “Mr. Chibbs,” as his household had known as him since he was little, might make pictures from outdoors, slither by means of the lane and rating on the rim or dribble and dime as if defenders had been cones. And he did all of it with a smile.
“Developing in New York I had coach Jack Curran at Molloy and my mentor, Vincent Smith [older brother to fellow Molloy product and longtime NBA player, Kenny Smith],” Anderson recollects. “And I actually adopted the trail of these 4 guys that had been proper forward of me—Kenny Smith, Rod Strickland, Mark Jackson and, RIP, my man Pearl Washington.”
Pretty much as good as all 4 of these NYC “level gods” and a few others of that period had been, Anderson was in a category by himself. The highest recruit within the nation in the highschool class of 1989, he headed to Atlanta for school and starred at Georgia Tech from day one.
As a freshman, Anderson teamed with higher classmen Brian Oliver and Dennis Scott to kind “Deadly Weapon 3,” a trio that gained the Yellow Jackets the ACC Event and reached the Closing 4, the place they misplaced an epic semifinal sport to the legendary UNLV staff that will win the nationwide title two nights later.
Oliver and Scott departed after that season and, although his sport was certainly NBA-ready, Anderson returned to ATL for his sophomore marketing campaign. “Going hardship” after only one season of school basketball was hardly completed on the time. Anderson labored to hold the burden with out his nice teammates from the yr earlier than, at one level dropping hair as a result of stress of main the staff and the pending choice about turning professional. Struggles or not, Anderson nonetheless averaged 25.9 ppg that season (alongside 5.7 rpg, 5.6 apg and three spg) and led Tech to the second spherical of the match. And, certain sufficient, he did flip professional, shortly getting scooped up by the New Jersey Nets with the second choose.
To this NYC-hoops-obsessed fan, it felt like a fairy story, seeing Kenny paired with Derrick Coleman and Drazen Petrovic on a super-fresh Nets squad that performed simply over the river in New Jersey. Between accidents, the premature demise of Draz and limitless front-office/possession squabbles, nonetheless, these Nets by no means fairly fulfilled their promise.
Possibly Kenny didn’t fulfill his particular person promise all the best way both, although on reflection it’s fairly simple to attribute that to his taking part in for shaky coaches at shaky franchises, and admittedly, a God-given physique that was not precisely constructed for the trials of an 82-game NBA season. Anderson nonetheless earned the beginning within the ’94 All-Star Sport and parlayed his time within the Swamp right into a seven-year, $49 million free agent contract with the Portland Path Blazers in 1996, theoretically setting him up for all times. All instructed, Anderson spent 14 seasons within the NBA (making the playoffs six instances), ending his profession with averages of 13 factors and 6 assists in half-hour per sport. An actual-ass profession, in different phrases. He additionally made roughly $63 million in pre-tax wage.
The cash was sufficient to realize Anderson’s principal life purpose—to deal with his single mom, Joan. It additionally introduced on all types of off-court drama; fathering seven kids with 5 totally different girls ate away on the funds and led to a chapter declaration in 2005. This, mixed with Joan’s passing the identical yr, made for some onerous post-NBA years.
Ultimately, Anderson settled in South Florida along with his new spouse, Natasha, regrouped and acquired into teaching, first on the AAU after which highschool stage. He was additionally the topic of a 2017 documentary, Mr. Chibbs: Basketball is Simple, Life is Arduous, that expounds on that tagline, a phrase Kenny utters regularly and knowingly. (Full disclosure: I proudly donated to the Kickstarter to assist get that factor made.)
In 2018, then-Fisk President Kevin Rome reached out. “The president of the varsity went to Morehouse School in Atlanta, so he knew me from my days at Georgia Tech,” Anderson recollects. “He introduced me in. I knew the varsity wanted some work within the athletic program. I considered my highschool coach, Jack Curran, and that’s what I needed to do. Begin low, give these younger males one thing to succeed in for.”
Fisk is a traditionally Black college (lower than 1,000 college students) in Nashville that was established in 1866 and is much extra identified for its teachers than its athletics. The checklist of notable Fisk alums is jaw-dropping, that includes such historic figures as W.E.B. DuBois, John Hope Franklin, Nikki Giovanni and Congressman John Lewis, amongst many others. No well-known hoopers, although. The massive program in Nashville is Vanderbilt of the Energy 5 SEC, the place Anderson’s modern, Jerry Stackhouse, is head males’s basketball coach. “We are able to’t compete with them, in fact, however I hope we will get a scrimmage with them sooner or later,” Kenny says.
Anderson succeeded Dr. Larry Glover, who’s now Fisk’s Athletic Director, as head coach for the 2018-19 season. Glover was thrilled. “The president introduced it to my consideration that he had spoken to Kenny about teaching right here,” Glover says. “We thought it was a good suggestion. He didn’t have the faculty teaching résumé, however the taking part in expertise was sufficient to compensate for that over the long term. For ex-players who’ve performed for lots of coaches, it’s form of innate. And once you play on the stage he has performed, the sport inside and outside. We thought it was a win for basketball and athletics and the varsity itself.”
Mentor Vincent Smith, who met Kenny when he was 9 years outdated and shepherded him by means of his novice basketball profession, continues to be the person Anderson turns to for recommendation. Smith inspired Anderson to take the Fisk job and thinks he has the makings of an excellent coach. “Kenny all the time had a excessive basketball IQ,” Smith says from his house in California. “He wasn’t the man who made it as a result of he had a 40-inch vertical leap. He knew change speeds, he was the grasp of the midrange sport and he all the time knew run a staff and get folks concerned. Level guards know each place on the ground. The coach and the purpose guard must be related and on the identical web page. We knew he could possibly be a very good coach.”
All that mentioned, a wide range of surprising hurdles make it really feel like Anderson’s faculty teaching profession is just beginning in earnest this fall. In that first 2018-19 season, teaching gamers he didn’t recruit, Anderson’s Bulldogs went 8-17 and Chibbs was struggling. “I wasn’t consuming proper,” he says. “I used to be stressed. Guys weren’t taking it critical sufficient. It was lots of stress on me, I spotted.”
On February 23, 2019, simply days after the season ended, Anderson suffered a stroke whereas at his home in Florida. Solely 48 years outdated on the time, he might need died had been it not for his scared canine (the Instagram-famous Caleb) and daughter, Tiana, who realized what was occurring. Tiana known as Natasha, who acquired house and acquired Kenny to the hospital. Medical doctors saved his life, however months of psychological and bodily rehabilitation adopted.
Anderson recovered fairly miraculously and was prepared for the beginning of the ’19-20 season, albeit with out having had a correct offseason of recruiting and preparation. The staff struggled once more as Anderson continued to get well from the stroke, ending his second marketing campaign with a file of 10-20.
Shortly after that season, one other shockwave hit: COVID-19. Fisk’s complete ’20-21 season was canceled.
So right here we’re in August, 2021, and Mr. Chibbs is wholesome and able to rock. “I’m [a patient] at Vanderbilt Medical. They’re taking good care of me. I’ve no limitations bodily, however my reminiscence isn’t so good,” he says.
Certainly one of Fisk’s returning gamers is Devyn Payne, a junior PG out of Memphis. He raves about taking part in for Anderson. “Taking part in for Kenny is a lifetime dream,” Payne says on the telephone from campus in the course of the first week of the varsity yr. “He’s a identified NBA legend. He was that dude. That canine. He nonetheless has it, too. He’ll shoot the ball, toss it round his again. He’s nonetheless acquired the sauce.”
Glover says that Anderson’s presence on the college has meant higher recruiting pipelines, extra consideration from alumni and extra media curiosity. “The alumni from the ’80s and ’90s actually learn about his profession. The gamers don’t know an excessive amount of, however their mother and father do! In order that helps,” Glover says. “I believe this yr, he actually made his mark with recruiting. He’s been working some camps. We’re getting a stage of participant we haven’t had earlier than.”
Fisk has had erratic convention affiliations through the years (and been an unbiased at instances) however this yr the Bulldogs are rejoining the Gulf Coast Athletic Convention, which the varsity had beforehand belonged to a decade in the past (different members embody New Orleans-based universities Dillard and Xavier. Phrase to Scoop Jackson). “It’s the one NAIA league that’s all HBCUs, and we’re very proud to be part of it,” says Fisk Sports activities Data Director Scott Wallace.
NAIA faculties don’t provide conventional athletic scholarships, however can provide educational scholarships to gamers who’re additionally nice college students. Given Fisk’s educational requirements, Anderson’s recruits must clear a very excessive bar. “It’s kinda onerous being so massive on teachers,” concedes Payne, who majors in Enterprise Administration. “The necessities to get in are onerous. Making the dignity roll right here means rather a lot. Graduating from Fisk means rather a lot. Folks understand it’s powerful over right here. It’s good as a result of Fisk is historic and identified for teachers, however it’s onerous for recruiting.”
“Basketball is secondary right here,” Anderson confirms. “You gotta be actual educated. I need to assist children get themselves an actual good profession.”
Provides Payne, “He’s all the time on us about being at school, getting our schoolwork completed. He talks about that rather a lot. He all the time preaches about onerous work, teachers and life. Then basketball. I like taking part in for him.”
That is absolute music to Vincent Smith’s ears. “Anytime you’ll be able to assist younger males get higher, you are feeling nice about it. Each, educate one. Folks gave rather a lot to Kenny and now he’s giving again,” he says.
No matter impression Anderson is having on the younger males who play for him is matched by what the expertise is doing for him. Unsurprisingly, in the event you comply with the rapid-tweeting legend, Kenny works the addictive platform into his rationalization of how the job and his life are taking part in out.
“I’m going to be off Twitter from August 15-March 1,” says Chibbs, who had already damaged his vow as of press time within the type of RTs, although he has averted typing out any unique tweets. “Everyone goes to overlook me on there and it’s gonna be powerful for me. However I’m gonna learn novels. I’ve gotta gravitate to different issues. All constructive. My mom handed away and he or she needed me to vary my life. This job has modified me an excellent deal. That’s what my mom needed.”
“Kenny’s mom can be working round and leaping up and down,” Smith co-signs with a chuckle. “She’d be so pleased with what he’s doing proper now.”
Ben Osborne is a former SLAM Ed. and is now Head of Content material for Just Women’s Sports.