Tiers of Gratitude

Galileo once said that in life “we cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” For Louisiana State University Alumni and former NBA veteran Stanley Roberts, his life was blessed with having four influential coaches who, in their own right, played a pivotal role in looking after Stanley’s well-being. It started with his high school coach Jim Childers, along with his Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coach back in his home state of South Carolina, George Glymph, after high school it continued with Louisiana State University (LSU)’s legendary coach Dale Brown, to his former NBA head coach with the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers, Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Brown. In addition to his coaches, he shares his gratitude toward three of his LSU teammates that are near and dear to him, Basketball Hall of Famer and NBA Legend Shaquille O’Neal, former NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly Chris Jackson), and former LSU teammate and roommate Wayne Sims.

As they say, people are in our lives for a reason; whether we figure out “why” now or later, it’s never too late to share praise and gratitude for the positive individuals that grace us with their presence. When sitting down with Stanley, he wanted to capture and give praise to key individuals that played a big role in supporting him during the good and bad times. It’s easy to find followers when things are going well but it’s much more difficult to find those individuals that stand by your side and find ways to uplift you and keep your spirits high when you have nothing to offer but your mere presence and friendship.

When asked, “From a young age, when did you know basketball was going to be a larger part of your life?” Stanley laughed and said, “For me, it wasn’t a moment; I knew basketball was something I wanted to do. It honestly was something I stumbled into. In junior high, I was having a good ole time and ‘Wild ’n Out,’ before that phrase was coined by Nick Cannon and his MTV show. As I was finishing up with junior high, my older brother Wayne personally asked the Lower Richland High School’s Head Coach Jim Childers to look after me. Wayne also threw in the nugget of information that ‘oh, by the way, my little brother Stanley is 6’10”, 290 lbs.’ That alone piqued Coach Childers attention, which led him to go down to my junior high and personally look for me. I remember Coach Childers asking me if I wanted to play basketball. At that moment, I was unsure. He personally asked to speak with my mother and she told me, ‘if this is something you want to do, you have my blessing.’ As they say, so it begins. Coach Childers took me to the Alex English Basketball Camp and I was a disaster. The guys at the camp were just far more advanced than me and on top of that, I was out of shape. Let’s just say it was not a good showing for me; humbling to say the least. After camp, I started feeling as though basketball was not meant for me.

“In my family, basketball was a common thread between my brother and uncles. My uncle Jeffrey Roberts played at Coastal Carolina, my other uncle Dale Roberts played at Appalachian State, and my brother Wayne played at Independence Kansas Junior College. They pulled me aside that summer and said, ‘if you are serious about this and want to play, we will help you.’ We had a playground about a mile away from home and that’s where, for three months, they’d rough me up and made it the most miserable summer imaginable. After the tough love on the asphalt, they took me to the high school camp and, shockingly, I exceeded expectations. After dealing with the bumps and bruises of my family pushing me, dealing with the camp competition was a walk in the park.”

During Stanley’s high school years, Head Coach Jim Childers kept him in check with his core curriculum so he could get into college. Stanley was enrolled in summer school each year until he graduated. After practice, he would go to the Childers household to get tutored by the coach and his wife, Cindy. Stanley shared “Coach Childers taught me how to be a man. During that stage of my life, my father wasn’t around much. I found myself spending a lot of time at the Childers household with their children. Coach Childers was a great inspiration and role model for me growing up. To this day, we keep in touch. He followed me to LSU when I decided to enroll there, coaching from 1988–1997, then he was on the coaching staff of the University of Memphis from 1997–1998, and today he’s an assistant principal at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina.”

Stanley’s high school coach would always remind him of his potential and found ways to inspire him as if he was his own son. Stanley shared, “He always told me I was the type of person that had a light switch at arms reach. Whenever I’d get to that point of being great, I’d flip the switch to sabotage things. He’d keep telling me to stop flipping that switch and destroying the good I’d established. He cared about me as a human being and treated me like family. I’m very grateful he was there for me during that period of my life.”

Throwback photo: #53 Stanley Roberts – Lower Richland High School – 1988 AAAA State Champs (record of 29-3)

Stanley’s AAU coach, George Glymph, worked with Coach Childers in working with Stanley. Coach Glymph was a legendary coach at Eau Claire High School in Columbia, South Carolina, who also coached future NBA star Jermaine O’Neal, who entered the league straight out of high school in 1996. Stanley shared the following sentiment about Coach Glymph, “He was very loving, had a strong dedication to the game of basketball and just embodied a strong work ethic with everything in life. He had his own relationship with me independent of Coach Childers. I personally remember him coming to my father’s funeral service and that truly meant a lot to me and my family.”

As Stanley shared next, “That first recruiting trip I met Coach Dale Brown from LSU. I immediately felt at home and there was something about his presence that put me and my family at ease. At that moment in my life, my family was going through a personal situation the affected the family greatly. Coach Dale Brown showed his true character during that moment and proved to me everything I needed to know about him through both his actions and words of encouragement. Dale was a beacon of wisdom and positive energy. He’d always tell us players, always be humble, always open up and listen, you never know what a person is going through or has been through, so don’t be quick to judge, and most importantly, unconditional love is the key to life.”

When diving deeper into how Coach Dale Brown treated him from day one, Stanley would always remember the coach saying, “You are not a basketball player, you are a human being and I’m going to treat like one.” From what Stanley shared, Dale was like a father figure who would give you the shirt off his back and cared about all of his players. To this day, Dale still keeps in touch with all of them. While talking to him during our sit down, Stanley laughed and said, “I just received an email from him the other day checking in on me. He always stays in touch like clockwork. I’ve received emails from him just letting me know he’s thinking of me, passing along positive affirmations, sharing articles, or just ensuring I’m doing well in life. When I was in the NBA, I would reach out to him and ask questions and talk about life. Anytime I was feeling down, he knew the right words to lift my spirits and put me in the right frame of mind to go on with my day.”

Beyond the kinder, gentler side of Coach Brown was Coach Brown “the jokester.” Stanley recalls Coach Brown prank calling his players at like two in the morning and pretended to be a radio announcer or sports writer but his voice was so distinct you can tell over the phone it was him. “All I can do is just laugh when he’d call me in the middle of the night.”

He was also a master motivator as well. “I remember when we were going to play Loyola Marymount. The whole week before that game Dale would say, ‘you know, Paul Westhead, Loyola’s head coach, was saying they have two seven-footers on the LSU team that can’t run, we are going to wear down LSU’s big men with our uptempo offense.’ We were determined to prove Paul wrong. I’m going to be honest, a part of my soul is still left on that court because their team ran us to death. My lungs were on fire but proving Westhead wrong was worth it.”

When Stanley reflects on how he met his future LSU teammate Chris Jackson (later in his NBA career converted to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf); it dates back to the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic. Stanley said, “I recall Chris coming to my room and telling me I want to go wherever you go. He said, ‘don’t believe what you hear in the media, if you are going to LSU, I’m coming with you.’ He gave me his word and committed to joining me at LSU. We’ve been great friends ever since. Mahmoud to this day is in phenomenal shape, he’s in the gym every day, does personal training, privately trains NBA players, and loves the game. His routine consisted of waking up, praying, eating breakfast, then he’d go into the basketball gym and work out, break for lunch, break for his prayer, finish up his gym workout, and he’ll end up leaving sometime in the late evening. For those that weren’t able to see him play in college or in the NBA, I have not seen too many basketball players that can match his overall ability from his quickness, ball handling, his shooting range, and ability to create his own shot and scoring records. He was a very special player and a tough assignment to cover. I’ve seen him demolish guys in both college and the pros. He amassed this success all while playing with Tourette’s syndrome. His success in the Ice Cube Big3 league did not surprise me because he takes care of his body and he’s in excellent shape.”

To the Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, before the movie Blue Chips, before his early NBA career with the Orlando Magic, and before the championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, his college career started in Louisiana at LSU. Stanley’s earliest memories with Shaquille was plain and simple, “When Shaquille joined the team, even from day one, he knew his role and genuinely cared. In college, we were inseparable and spent a lot of time together. His passion and love for his teammates and the game was unmatched. Whatever was needed, he was always willing to make any sacrifices and perfectly fine with playing the role of enforcer to protect the team, because we were one big family. As a freshman, he was too young to get into bars and clubs. He use to drive me to nightclubs and patiently wait outside in the car to ensure I got back to campus safely. I’d get him some Hawaiian punch and some food and he would just hang out in the parking lot, listen to some music and wait for me. I love Shaquille like a brother and appreciate everything he gave to the LSU program. I’m equally proud of all of the philanthropic and entrepreneurial success he’s achieving beyond his professional basketball career. Keep doing big things with the Inside the NBA on TNT team and beyond, big dawg.”

For Stanley’s former teammate from LSU, Wayne Sims, their tie goes back to 1988 where the two were roommates in college. Present day, they live five minutes away from each other in Louisiana. Stanley shared, “He’s like a brother to me, he’s helped me in good and bad times, and his son Wayde is my godson. Back in college Wayne and Ricky Blanton pushed me as an athlete to get the best out of me but were also notorious for instigating things, such as the time Shaquille dunked on me in a summertime scrimmage when he was a freshman. Thanks to both Wayne and Ricky chirping in my ear after I got dunked, saying, “Stanley, you gonna let a freshman do that to you in your house? This is your house!” It would eventually lead to a brief tussle between Shaquille and me, which ironically made us closer as both friends and teammates. All jokes aside, I’m grateful for Wayne being a great friend and he has always had my back and deserves the praise and gratitude for impacting my life.”

During Stanley’s NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers, he had the pleasure of playing for Hall of Fame Head Coach Larry Brown. From Stanley’s perspective, “Larry was one of those coaches if you gave him 100%, he loved you. However, once you got on his bad side, it didn’t end well! He’s truly a players’ coach and cares about his players. Due to his historic playing career in the ABA and tenure as a head coach in both the ABA and NBA, he knew the lifestyle of an athlete with no judgment. There were days where maybe you go to practice not feeling well and he’d tell you to go ride the bike for 45 minutes and just go home and rest up. Under normal circumstances, when you showed up to work he’d expected nothing less than 100%. Once in a while, he’d line everyone up at the half court line (approximately a 47-foot shot) and say, if anyone can hit a half-court shot, there is no practice today. Everyone on the team had exactly one attempt each to make it. Once in a while, someone sent us home with a half-court make, but the majority of the time we found ourselves putting in the work and having practice that day.

LSU Alum and NBA Veteran, Stanley Roberts at an LSU Tailgate – Geaux Tigers!

“Off the court, Coach Brown always gave me advice and looked after me like a father figure. He’d call me up and invite me to the gym to jog with him on the treadmill. He’d say, ‘Stanley, I’ve had two hip replacements, if I can jog, you can, too!’ Before I was medically diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he’d tell me ‘run as hard as you can and when you are out of breath, raise your hand and I’ll take you out of the game so you can catch your breath. When you are ready, signal me and I’ll put you right back in.’ Other coaches I played for would say, ‘you are out of shape, you need to lose weight’ and had zero sympathy for my undiagnosed medical condition. When I had birthday parties, Larry always made sure to show up with his wife and the coaching staff to have a drink with me and promptly left before the players arrived so they wouldn’t get paranoid partying around the coaches.

“To my coaches, Jim, George, Dale, and Larry, and my teammates and good friends, Mahmoud, Shaquille, and Wayne, thank you for the unconditional love and support through the years. While you easily could have given up hope on me, you gave me a reason to pull through and stay positive in life. I learned in life that ‘everyone falls down. Only the best get back up. To my amazing children Stanecia, Ysabella, Cahleed and Stanley Jr. I love you with all my heart and blessed to have you in my life. To everyone else that I wasn’t able to individually name and to my fans that stuck beside me through the years, I love you all and appreciate the positivity and strength you have given me each day.”

It’s easy to pass judgment on everyone and often we see athletes and celebrities under a microscope because of their imposed limelight. But to be fair, we can easily nitpick and judge one another for the life choices and decision that have made us who we are today. Here’s a general question: When is the last time you centered your energy on gratitude or giving homage to someone that has impacted your life? For Stanley, I want to personally share my praise and respect for him by earning his degree at LSU in 2012. There’s a deeper story, particularly surrounding the medical obstacles that could have prolonged this achievement, but Stanley stayed determined to finish what he started. Present day, Stanley works for the Baton Rouge company Aptim as a recruiter and gives credit to his faith for keeping his mind, body, and spirit on the right path in life. He continues this legacy to his current community of New Orleans, which serves as an inspiration to everyone that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams, brighten someone’s day, or make a difference in the world.

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