Former Portland Trail Blazers Rookie of the Year and 3-time All-Star Brandon Roy, who’s playing career was cut short for good in 2012 due to degenerative knee issues, is catching on to his new career just as quickly as his old one. The 32-year-old Roy is in his first season as the head coach of Nathan Hale High School, in his hometown of Seattle.
Roy, who attended Seattle’s Garfield High and later the University of Washington, was tasked with turning around a program that went 3-18 last year. So far, so good. The Raiders are off to a 5-0 start and are ranked No. 13 in the USA Today Super 25. SLAM Magazine’s Franklyn Calle recently caught up with Coach Roy to discuss his transition to this new challenge.
On when he knew he wanted to coach:
“For me, I wanted to coach about a year ago but I didn’t want to commit to it. And then I finally had to tell myself—when you stop committing to things like I did for four years, it’s hard to get back into it—I said, Brandon, you have to get back into the real world. You gotta commit to this and be there everyday for these kids. And then in the spring I finally said I’m ready to do this. And I knew it would be a journey but it’s one I’m enjoying being on.”
On how he relates what he learned in his NBA career to coaching:
“I tell these kids to maximize their opportunities. And the reason you say that is because you can’t worry about the things you can’t control. You can’t control injuries but what you can control is what you do every day that you’re healthy. I think sometimes with these kids, they’re young and the best thing about being young is that you can dream. Reality hasn’t set in yet. My knees aren’t going to let me play in the NBA—that’s reality right there. I try to tell these kids keep dreaming but make sure you live in the moment. I learned that from my own experience.
At the end of the day, you want to open up your book and you want to know you dominated every single phase of it. Because when you’re done, that’s all you have. Now that I’m done with basketball, all I have is my memories and everything I did while playing. So when people say, “Brandon, how does it feel? Are you okay with your career?” I’m great! Because I did everything to the fullest of my abilities in basketball. And when the body said I couldn’t, I didn’t harp on it.”
On the differences in the game from his High School playing days:
“The biggest difference is just the social media. When I was a kid, our world was so small. It was just my high school and that’s the only kids I knew. And now, these kids are best friends with kids from across the country because they can talk everyday. They can see each other online. In my era it was a little easier to be yourself. I only knew a couple of other guys that went to other high schools. I would never talk to them like that, I just knew them in passing. So it was easy for me to say, Hey, I’m going to be Brandon Roy. But nowadays the world is so small that kids get on the Internet and there’s all this popularity going on. And so I think kids are even more insecure as they try to fit in even more now because they see what everyone is doing in the world. When I was coming up, it wasn’t like that. It was just, Hey, what are the other guys doing in your neighborhood? I think there’s more pressure on them because there’s so much attention and media, and so everybody is a critic now. When I was in high school and I lost or didn’t do well, if you didn’t read the newspaper then you wouldn’t have known. I just try to tell the kids, don’t let anyone outside of this locker room put any extra pressure on you.”
The fact that Roy has turned the Nathan Hale program around so quickly should be of no surprise to Blazer fans. Portland won just 21 games the season before Roy was drafted, and by his third season in the league (‘08-’09) the Natural had led the team a 54-win season, and their first playoff berth since 2003. The Blazers made the playoffs three times during Roy’s five year run in Portland. He averaged 18.4 points per game over his Blazers career, recaptured the heart of Rip City, and will forever be an important part of Trail Blazers history.
To read Calle’s full Q&A with Roy, click here.