In my memory, Kenny Anderson is the point guard who quarterbacked the best Celtics teams of my teenage years, the lefty who helped take Boston to the Eastern Conference finals, the precocious talent who never lived up to his potential, and the disappointment who never, ever should have been traded for Chauncey Billups.
Now, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, he’s also the coach of a Jewish high school team, David Posnack Jewish Day School. If you saw that coming, you should start a 1-800 psychic line and let me know so I can invest in your business.
When Anderson first admitted interest in the position to a father of two Posnack students, the interest was relayed to Posnack Athletic Director Mitch Evron.
“Yeah, I’ll talk to Kenny Anderson,” said Everon. “I’ll talk to Dwyane Wade, too.”
But Anderson’s interest was real. Never mind that he would make less than $2,500 in his new position. He sees coaching at Posnack a real challenge, one he can look forward to just years after filing for bankruptcy, after fathering seven children with five different women and being what the South Florida Sun Sentinel describes as a “distant” father to all of them.
“My challenge after leaving the pros was going back to school, that’s the only challenge I had. And I did that,” Anderson told the Sun Sentinel. “This is another challenge, and that’s what I feed off of.”
Some people would likely consider Anderson’s new job a letdown. Here’s a former NBA player, an All-Star, who made more than $63 million in his career, and that’s not counting endorsements, coaching a Jewish high school team for one-eighth of Anderson’s former monthly expenses.
But Anderson lived the NBA lifestyle for a long time, and it didn’t agree with him. He lost every penny. He lost two wives. He lost the ability to pay child support. He spent millions of dollars on cars (ten or eleven of them, he once said), clothes and women, and the rest of his money he spent on his growing stack of bills and, sometimes, just loaning money to friends he knew would never pay him back.
“I was generous,” he once told the Washington Post. “I didn’t say no. I used to have it bad, people calling me, crying. I used to be like, ‘Aw, damn, man.’ They were struggling. It’s hard. My accountants, they were like: ‘No!’ I’d be like, ‘But they’re getting ready to get thrown out of their house!’ So I helped.”
And then the money, and the perks that came with it, were all gone. Rock bottom. Nowhere to go but up. So Anderson changed his life. He started to take care of himself and watch his bank account. He went back to school and graduated from St. Thomas University. He married a woman, Natasha Anderson, who Anderson said in 2009 loved him unconditionally, not because of the number in his bank account — remember, by now that number was quite low — but because of who he was. He started a point guard academy and began teaching basketball to young kids.
Anderson told the Miami Herald his old lifestyle had been empty.
“I want to be a role model,” he said. “Before I’m gone, I want to help somebody like people helped me. Not a million kids. Three. Two. One. I want one kid to be able to say, ‘Kenny Anderson helped me.’ That’s the stuff that matters.”
A month before he graduated college, Anderson remembered his mother, Joan, and his mentor, Howie Lawrence, and wished they were still alive so they could see him now. All grown up, a college graduate, finally heeding the advice they preached to him for so long, mentoring children, being a good father, taking care of his own, finally piecing his life back together and understanding what was important.
“They’d be so shocked and so proud,” he told the Miami Herald in April 2010.
And now he’s coaching a small Jewish high school team, one that has never made the regional playoffs. Anderson was advised to start small, and that seems to be part of his plan, to prove his coaching acumen at Posnack before moving on to a bigger, more basketball-oriented school. But for now, he gets the chance to give back to the community, to challenge himself, to lead and mentor and teach students, and probably even to learn a lot himself.
Maybe one day, some of the Posnack players will look back at their time being coached by Kenny Anderson and say that Anderson helped them. That’s the stuff that matters.
Currently, the players are just in shock that Anderson decided to coach a Jewish high school team with no basketball pedigree.
“It’s awesome,” said Jonah Wassersterom, a 10th-grade player.
Awesome, but only if Anderson uses his opportunity the way he should, the way that his mother, Joan, and mentor, Howie Lawrence, would have wanted him to.