My dad was my high school coach and my mom coached my sisters. I watched and lived the always awkward dance of the playing time and handling of a coach’s kid. Though high school sports seem like a big deal, especially in the moment, they are only a fraction of the seriousness and pressure of the college level. Dealing with the “parent-as-coach” phenomenon with a brighter spotlight must be a mess, but it pops up more than you’d think. In semi-recent memory, Doug McDermott was National Player of the Year for his dad at Creighton, John Beilein’s son Patrick played for him at West Virginia, and Ron and RJ Hunter made a Cinderella run. This year it feels like we have a glut of coach’s sons dotting the college basketball landscape. Let’s cruise around the country, looking for some parental love on the bench.
As I mentioned, I was a coach’s son and along with that territory comes whispers or questions about earning your spot on the team and playing time. When Brad Calipari decided to walk-on to his father’s Kentucky team, he must have known he’d hear something similar. Brad decided to do something about it. He decided to refute the idea that he’d been given a spot on the team without earning it by getting the phrase “EARNED NOT GIVEN” tattooed across his chest:
Let’s not even waste our time analyzing the style, design, placement, sizing, or timing of the tattoo (all of which are terrible). Let’s focus on the content. Now for those of you unfamiliar with Kentucky basketball, Brad Calipari is not a contributing member of the Wildcats’ team. To date, in his first season at Kentucky, Brad has played 42 total minutes. He’s taken 13 shots and missed 11 of them.
I expect another tattoo to say something like “Silencing the Haters” or “Proving You Wrong”.
Over at Kansas, Tyler Self is paving the way for Brad Calipari, walking-on to his father’s Jayhawk team for his 5th season. In four seasons on the active roster, Tyler has scored 14 total points. He doesn’t seem to mind the lack of playing time. He’s getting his MBA for free. His teammates helped him dunk by lifting him in the air like a toddler once.
Keep doing adorable walk-on stuff, Tyler.
Avery Johnson Jr.
It was fairly surprising when former NBA coach Avery Johnson took the head coaching job at Alabama. With heaps of football money, he has he tools and motivation to build a nice program in Tuscaloosa. He’s joined by his son, Avery Jr., who transferred from Texas A&M after Dad got the job.
Little Avery has been an important cog for the Crimson Tide, coming up huge in a 4 OT win at South Carolina this week. He posted a career high 23 points with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. As the clock ticked down in regulation and each of the overtimes, he showed the same ability to deliver in the clutch as his father did for the Spurs during his playing days.
Unquestionably the best player on this list, Alford is one of the factors in UCLA’s potent offense. He’s a lights-out shooter, but more importantly he’s found his footing by improving shot selection and ball security. Each of the past two seasons, Alford attempted more than 12 shots per game, shooting under 40 percent from the field and from three-point range. This year, he’s dialed back to 10 shots per game and is shooting 48 percent from the field and a scorching 45 percent from outside. In addition, he’s decreased his turnover rate each of the last two years.
Having Lonzo Ball run the point has lifted weight from Alford’s shoulders, allowing him to be more free to hit open shots and attract defenders away from fellow Bruins. Bryce Alford is our best chance to recreate the ultimate father-son March Madness moment: