“My guy. My guy!”
Yes, this is how Kenny Anderson addresses his phone when I get in touch with behalf of SLAM. “I’m finishing up at Starbucks with my wife. Let’s talk in 20 minutes.”
“You got it, my guy,” I respond in kind.
The humorous and constantly favorable Kenny Anderson character you can follow on Twitter (@chibbs_1, though he states he’s on hiatus ’til March…more on that in a bit) is that method in reality, too.
Anderson, the 50-year-old previous NBA All-Star who invested 14 years in the L and is now the head coach at NAIA Fisk University in Nashville, actually simply wishes to do excellent.
“Everything is working out for me the way God planned,” Anderson states when we leap back on the phone after his basic early morning Starbucks run. “I’m just here to help others. It’s not about Division I or Division II, just helping. That’s why I took this job. I love that we’re building something.”
Even though I understand the ins and outs of his profession along with anybody’s, as Kenny himself states, “The young kids don’t know me too well, but their parents do.”
So let’s evaluation genuine fast.
Kenny Anderson was, actually, among the finest prep gamers ever. The late, terrific scout Tom Konchalski called him “the greatest high school point guard of all time.”
A rail-thin six-footer who matured in the LeFrak City real estate complex in Queens, Anderson was a four-year phenom at Archbishop Molloy in Queens, leading the Stanners to 2 CHSAA titles and scoring a then-New-York-state-record 2,621 points in his profession. As a senior, the ballhandling wizard balanced 35 ppg on 77 (!!) percent shooting from the flooring en path to winning agreement National Player of the Year honors. “Mr. Chibbs,” as his household had actually called him because he was bit, might make shots from outdoors, slither through the lane and rating at the rim or dribble and cent as if protectors were cones. And he did it all with a smile.
“Coming up 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 remembers. “And I really followed the path of those four guys that were right ahead of me—Kenny Smith, Rod Strickland, Mark Jackson and, RIP, my guy Pearl Washington.”
As excellent as all 4 of those New York City “point gods” and some others of that age were, Anderson remained in a class by himself. The leading hire in the nation in the high school class of 1989, he headed to Atlanta for college and starred at Georgia Tech from the first day.
As a freshman, Anderson teamed with upper classmen Brian Oliver and Dennis Scott to form “Lethal Weapon 3,” a trio that won the Yellow Jackets the ACC Tournament and reached the Final Four, where they lost a legendary semifinal video game to the famous UNLV group that would win the nationwide title 2 nights later on.
Oliver and Scott left after that season and, though his video game was definitely NBA-ready, Anderson went back to ATL for his sophomore project. “Going hardship” after simply one season of college basketball was rarely done at the time. Anderson labored to bring the weight without his terrific colleagues from the year prior to, at one point losing hair due to the tension of leading the group and the pending choice about turning pro. Struggles or not, Anderson still balanced 25.9 ppg that season (along with 5.7 rpg, 5.6 apg and 3 spg) and led Tech to the 2nd round of the competition. And, sure enough, he did turn professional, rapidly getting scooped up by the New Jersey Nets with the 2nd choice.
To this NYC-hoops-obsessed fan, it seemed like a fairy tale, seeing Kenny coupled with Derrick Coleman and Drazen Petrovic on a super-fresh Nets team that played simply over the river in New Jersey. Between injuries, the unforeseen death of Draz and unlimited front-office/ownership squabbles, nevertheless, those Nets never ever rather satisfied their guarantee.
Maybe Kenny didn’t satisfy his specific guarantee all the method either, though in retrospection it’s quite simple to associate that to his betting unstable coaches at unstable franchises, and honestly, a God-offered body that was not precisely developed for the rigors of an 82-game NBA season. Anderson still made the start in the ’94 All-Star Game and parlayed his time in the Swamp into a seven-year, $49 million totally free representative agreement with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1996, in theory setting him up for life. All informed, Anderson invested 14 seasons in the NBA (making the playoffs 6 times), completing his profession with averages of 13 points and 6 helps in thirty minutes per video game. A real-ass profession, to put it simply. He likewise made around $63 million in pre-tax income.
The cash sufficed to accomplish Anderson’s primary life objective—to look after his single mom, Joan. It likewise caused all sorts of off-court drama; fathering 7 kids with 5 various females gnawed at the funds and resulted in an insolvency statement in 2005. This, integrated with Joan’s passing the exact same year, produced some tough post-NBA years.
Eventually, Anderson settled in South Florida with his brand-new better half, Natasha, regrouped and entered training, initially at the AAU and after that high school level. He was likewise the topic of a 2017 documentary, Mr. Chibbs: Basketball is Easy, Life is Hard, that states on that tagline, an expression Kenny says often and purposefully. (Full disclosure: I happily contributed to the Kickstarter to assist get that thing made.)
In 2018, then-Fisk President Kevin Rome connected. “The president of the school went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, so he knew me from my days at Georgia Tech,” Anderson remembers. “He brought me in. I knew the school needed some work in the athletic program. I thought about my high school coach, Jack Curran, and that’s what I wanted to do. Start low, give these young men something to reach for.”
Fisk is a traditionally Black university (less than 1,000 trainees) in Nashville that was developed in 1866 and is even more understood for its academics than its sports. The list of significant Fisk alums is jaw-dropping, including such historic figures as W.E.B. DuBois, John Hope Franklin, Nikki Giovanni and Congressman John Lewis, amongst numerous others. No popular hoopers, however. The huge program in Nashville is Vanderbilt of the Power 5 SEC, where Anderson’s modern, Jerry Stackhouse, is head guys’s basketball coach. “We can’t compete with them, of course, but I am hoping we can get a scrimmage with them in the future,” Kenny states.
Anderson prospered Dr. Larry Glover, who is now Fisk’s Athletic Director, as head coach for the 2018-19 season. Glover was delighted. “The president brought it to my attention that he had spoken to Kenny about coaching here,” Glover states. “We thought it was a good idea. He didn’t have the college coaching résumé, but the playing experience was enough to compensate for that over the long run. For ex-players who have played for a lot of coaches, it’s kind of innate. And when you play at the level he has played, you know the game inside and out. We thought it was a win for basketball and athletics and the school itself.”
Mentor Vincent Smith, who fulfilled Kenny when he was 9 years of ages and shepherded him through his amateur basketball profession, is still the male Anderson relies on for recommendations. Smith urged Anderson to take the Fisk task and believes he has the makings of a fantastic coach. “Kenny always had a high basketball IQ,” Smith states from his house in California. “He wasn’t the guy who made it because he had a 40-inch vertical leap. He knew how to change speeds, he was the master of the midrange game and he always knew how to run a team and get people involved. Point guards know every position on the floor. The coach and the point guard have to be connected and on the same page. We knew he could be a good coach.”
All that stated, a range of unanticipated difficulties make it seem like Anderson’s college training profession is just beginning in earnest this fall. In that initially 2018-19 season, training gamers he didn’t hire, Anderson’s Bulldogs went 8-17 and Chibbs was having a hard time. “I wasn’t eating right,” he states. “I was stressed out. Guys weren’t taking it serious enough. It was a lot of stress on me, I realized.”
On February 23, 2019, simply days after the season ended, Anderson suffered a stroke while at his home in Florida. Only 48 years of ages at the time, he may have passed away were it not for his terrified canine (the Instagram-popular Caleb) and child, Tiana, who recognized what was taking place. Tiana called Natasha, who got house and got Kenny to the medical facility. Doctors conserved his life, however months of psychological and physical rehab followed.
Anderson recuperated quite amazingly and was all set for the start of the ’19-20 season, albeit without having had a correct offseason of recruiting and preparation. The group had a hard time once again as Anderson continued to recuperate from the stroke, completing his 2nd project with a record of 10-20.
Shortly after that season, another shockwave hit: COVID-19. Fisk’s whole ’20-21 season was canceled.
So here we remain in August, 2021, and Mr. Chibbs is healthy and all set to rock. “I’m [a patient] at Vanderbilt Medical. They’re taking care of me. I have no limitations physically, but my memory isn’t so good,” he states.
One of Fisk’s returning gamers is Devyn Payne, a junior PG out of Memphis. He raves about betting Anderson. “Playing for Kenny is a lifetime dream,” Payne states on the phone from school throughout the very first week of the academic year. “He’s a known NBA legend. He was that dude. That dog. He still has it, too. He’ll shoot the ball, toss it around his back. He’s still got the sauce.”
Glover states that Anderson’s existence at the school has actually implied much better recruiting pipelines, more attention from alumni and more media interest. “The alumni from the ’80s and ’90s really know about his career. The players don’t know too much, but their parents do! So that helps,” Glover states. “I think this year, he really made his mark with recruiting. He’s been working some camps. We’re getting a level of player we haven’t had before.”
Fisk has actually had irregular conference associations throughout the years (and been an independent sometimes) however this year the Bulldogs are rejoining the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, which the school had actually formerly come from a years earlier (other members consist of New Orleans-based universities Dillard and Xavier. Word to Scoop Jackson). “It’s the only NAIA league that is all HBCUs, and we’re very proud to be a part of it,” states Fisk Sports Information Director Scott Wallace.
NAIA schools do not provide standard athletic scholarships, however can offer scholastic scholarships to gamers who are likewise terrific trainees. Given Fisk’s scholastic requirements, Anderson’s employees require to clear an especially high bar. “It’s kinda hard being so big on academics,” yields Payne, who majors in Business Administration. “The requirements to get in are hard. Making the honor roll here means a lot. Graduating from Fisk means a lot. People know it’s tough over here. It’s good because Fisk is historic and known for academics, but it is hard for recruiting.”
“Basketball is secondary here,” Anderson verifies. “You gotta be real educated. I want to help kids get themselves a real good career.”
Adds Payne, “He is always on us about being in class, getting our schoolwork done. He talks about that a lot. He always preaches about hard work, academics and life. Then basketball. I love playing for him.”
This is outright music to Vincent Smith’s ears. “Anytime you can help young men get better, you feel great about it. Each one, teach one. People gave a lot to Kenny and now he’s giving back,” he states.
Whatever effect Anderson is having on the boys who bet him is matched by what the experience is providing for him. Unsurprisingly, if you follow the rapid-tweeting legend, Kenny works the addicting platform into his description of how the task and his life are playing out.
“I’m going to be off Twitter from August 15-March 1,” states Chibbs, who had actually currently broken his vow since press time in the kind of RTs, though he has actually prevented typing out any initial tweets. “Everybody is going to miss me on there and it’s gonna be tough for me. But I’m gonna read novels. I’ve gotta gravitate to other things. All positive. My mother passed away and she wanted me to change my life. This job has changed me a great deal. That’s what my mother wanted.”
“Kenny’s mother would be running around and jumping up and down,” Smith co-signs with a chuckle. “She’d be so happy with what he’s doing right now.”
Ben Osborne is a previous SLAM Ed. and is now Head of Content for Just Women’s Sports.