The symbiotic relationship of Jarron Collins and his humbling high school coach

The symbiotic relationship of Jarron Collins and his humbling high school coach

OAKLAND -- Perched on the bench during games, he’s a model of cool. As Warriors coach Steve Kerr is yelling at referees and Mike Brown is trying to calm Kerr and Ron Adams ignoring them both, third assistant Jarron Collins is the dude projecting cerebral serenity.

Perhaps because at 6-foot-11 and about 270 pounds, he has been conditioned over his 39 years to exercise proper physical restraint in the midst of raging emotions.

Or maybe it’s because Collins has calculated the potential outcomes and, being rational, realizes he has little or no impact on any of them.

Then, too, it could be a matter of Collins being comfortable in his own skin and understanding that someone on the staff has to consider the consequences and be prepared to react in the way the best benefits the team.

There is little doubt, though, much of Collins’ demeanor can be traced back to his days at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, where Jarron and his twin brother Jason picked up lessons they carried to Stanford, through their NBA careers and into life beyond their playing days.

The primary influence in that regard is Greg Hilliard, the basketball coach at Harvard-Westlake. A compact man with the taut physique of a drill sergeant and the sideline disposition of a monk, Hilliard retired in 2015 after 40 years in coaching, the last 30 at HW.

“He never got a technical foul,” Collins says.

“I coached 42 years without one,” Hilliard says. “I worked referees a completely different way and, I thought, a way more effective way. They had tough jobs and I figured I wouldn’t give them any more grief for trying to do it than they would give me for trying to do mine.”

That’s not to suggest Hilliard, who will be honored Friday at the Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards ceremony in San Francisco, didn’t carry a loud stick of authority. He was quick to remind his players that he was in charge.

Collins tested him once and that was enough.

In the summer before his senior year at HW, Collins attended a Nike Camp in the Midwest and played well enough that he had an inflated opinion of himself when he returned to Southern California. He figured he could bypass the trivial matters of Coach Hilliard providing direction.

“My head, my ego, was the size of a building,” Collins recalls. “In our first summer tournament, I was on the bench when the other team went on a run. And I was thinking, ‘OK, coach. Let’s stop this and get me back in.’ So I subbed myself back in. I just stood up and went to the scorer’s table and subbed myself in.”

Hilliard didn’t snap. Didn’t shout. Didn’t even shoot an icy glare in the direction of this brassy youngster.

“We were struggling and normally I would sub him,” Hilliard recalls. “But I didn’t right then. So he walked right past me and checked in. Within five seconds of that, I checked him out and sat him down for the rest of the game. I didn’t say anything except, ‘No, we don’t do it that way.’

“Now, he was probably a few seconds ahead of me in what I was about to do anyway. He was often a few seconds ahead of me because he was a very smart player. But you can discipline there without screaming and yelling and showboating or trying to convince the crowd that you’re the boss.”

Twenty-two years later, Jarron still reflects on that insolent teenage moment.

“What I really appreciate about Coach Hilliard is that not only did he humble me, but that he did it in the right way,” he says. “He saw me sub myself in, subsequently called a time out, subbed me back out and I didn’t play the rest of the game.

“I learned. Don’t be ‘that guy.’ Can’t be ‘that guy.’ That was completely disrespectful to my coach, to my teammates, to my school, to my family. And those are the reminders that I now appreciate.”

Hilliard won 752 games over 42 seasons, 616 of them at HW, where he took over the program in 1984. During his time there, the school won 13 league championships, nine CIF Southern Section championships and two state championships, those coming in back-to-back seasons (1996 and ’97) when the Collins twins were juniors and seniors.

“They made me a better coach,” Hilliard says. “And all of a sudden a place that nobody had ever heard off -- it’s a very highly academic and elitist kind of school -- became attractive to kids in South LA. They’d heard about the Collins twins and seen them on TV.”

You might say it was a symbiotic relationship. Hilliard, 68, has his memories. They’re with him each morning, when he wakes up 5 a.m. and proceeds to his daily workout. They’re with him each time he hears from Jarron or Jason.

“A lot of the lessons I learned about sacrificing for the team and dedication and hard work and putting the time in, all those life lessons, those are what have made me who I am today,” Jarron says. “I draw down upon those experiences. It starts with my family and it definitely starts with my coaches, beginning at a young age.”

The lesson of this second-place Warriors team at the All-Star break


The lesson of this second-place Warriors team at the All-Star break

And so ends a thoroughly confusing half-season for the Golden State Warriors – doing all the things you love and hate them for in one fell swoop.
In losing, 123-117, at Portland, they showed their full game. Big game by one of the Gang Of Four (Kevin Durant this time)? Check. Lousy start? Check. Big rally after lousy start? Check. Defensive lapses? Check. Impassioned yet disgusted pregame soliloquy by Steve Kerr on the manifest inadequacies of modern American thought? Check, and mate.
Of those things, the Kerr attack on the Florida school shooting was the most meaningful development of an otherwise meh evening, but Kerr’s having to explain to us again what we should already know is almost a default position now – like everything else about this season.
The Warriors go into the All-Star Break in second place in the Western Conference, which is pretty much what they deserve. They have lost the standings initiative through the sin of boredom, and even if leading the conference at the All-Star Break is essentially meaningless (which it is), it is still fascinating to see so many people buying the argument that “they’ll get it together when they need to get it together.” Never has the argument that the regular season doesn’t matter been put so succinctly; not even Sam Hinkie and his Process fetish did it as well.

In other words, Kerr's latest attempt to re-focus the players lasted about as long as you figured it would.

Things can certainly change between now and June; most NBA observers are still banking on it. The notation “pulled attention span, questionable” does not enter their thoughts. They still see the Warriors as clearly superior in any series, and barring catastrophic injury regard them as essentially invulnerable over a seven-game series – which is an interesting analysis given that they’ve only played two, and lost one of those.
But unless the Warriors put on a game-by-game pyrospectacular from this point forward and wipe out all traces of this half-plus of the season, this year will be remembered as the oddest of their run. They seem to have given in to their own hype, believing as we all do that they are merely a toggle switch that only needs an educated thumb to start the engines churning again – which they might well be, no matter how occasionally dissatisfying that may seem to the proletariat.
If they win their third title in four years, they will meet expectations without exceeding them, and this season is the first of their four long and delightful seasons that actually seems to be providing more length than delight. This is not condemnation, but rather a reminder that not every plan goes according to plan, and winning gets harder each time it is accomplished. That is the lesson of 2018 – so far, anyway.

Is anybody listening? Steve Kerr and the sports world louder than our leaders

Is anybody listening? Steve Kerr and the sports world louder than our leaders

Steve Kerr is hurt and disillusioned and angry. He is completely fed up with government inertia in the face of epidemic gun violence that frequently manifests itself in mass shootings such as that which occurred Wednesday in Florida.

The Warriors coach is on this subject among the broadening chorus of voices, every one of them existing in a vacuum.

Everybody hears it, every time, but those within power structure never listen, for if they truly did they would take responsible preventive action.

In the wake of this latest tragedy it was evident Kerr, even as he prepared to coach the Warriors against the Trail Blazers in Portland, was particularly shaken.

His visage wore the news of another unhinged soul shooting up a school. At least 17 are dead, the vast majority of them students at Majory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. And the casualty count is likely to rise.

“Nothing has been done,” Kerr said with visible contempt. “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death, day after day, in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It’s not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country, to actually do anything. And that’s demoralizing.

“But we can do something about it. We can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people’s lives and not just bow down to the NRA because they’ve financed their campaign.”

Yes, he went there. Kerr urged American voters to seek out and support political candidates independent of the powerful National Rifle Association and, therefore, willing to generate momentum toward enacting responsible gun laws.

He barely bothered to address the current government, opting instead to plead with the voting public. Is anybody listening?


There is every indication that voices such as that of Kerr will not be silenced. He spoke passionately and from personal experience. His life was touched by gun violence in the most extreme fashion when his father, Malcolm, an educator, was assassinated at a school in Beirut 34 years ago last month.

Kerr is not alone in this quest for action. Many others joined in.

Former player Steve Nash, a Warriors consultant bound for the Hall of Fame, expressed his feelings on Twitter: “The rest of the world is having success prohibiting access to guns. I don’t see what the debate is about. It’s not working here. People are dying at alarming rates. If you value guns more than life and safety I don’t understand.”

Jared Dudley, a member of the Phoenix Suns and one of more respected veterans in the NBA, spoke up via Twitter: “So sad man! Gotta change theses Gun laws! I’m tired of the slogan guns don’t kill people only people kill people.. Change the Law!”

Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell kept his message to six words, printing “End gun violence” on his right shoe and “Pray for Parkland” on his left.

Mitchell’s mother is a teacher.

Here’s Tom Garfinkel, CEO of the Miami Dolphins: “How do we stop this? When will there be proactive change from our government leaders to address the complexity of why this keeps happening? Praying for those affected in Parkland. And Orlando, and Columbine, and Sandy Hook, and every other senseless and tragic shooting.”

And former NFL player Damien Woody: “I’m just over here thinking about how we as a society use the term ‘pro life’ . . . days like today doesn’t do it justice.”

And Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, quote tweeting the obligatory “prayers and condolences” tweet from President Trump: “Yea.. but the fact is that they AREN’T safe. Just more rhetoric and no action. WAKEUP!!!!”

Is anybody listening?


Wednesday was the 45th day of this calendar year -- and the 18th school shooting. Quick math tells us that equals two every five days, 10 every 25 and 20 every 50.

Many children of color grow up with violence. Studies have proved that the experience traumatizes them to varying degrees. There are neighborhoods all across these United States in which children are as afraid of law enforcement as they are of street gangs. It’s how they grow up.

The powerlessness and apprehension is growing each day. And each time our elected leaders choose to look the other way while holding open their duffle bags to accept NRA cash, the sense of despair gets deeper.

How many children will go to school today and tomorrow and all the days after that feeling anxieties they should not have to bear in a so-called civilized society?

They’ll be looking over their shoulders. They’ll be wondering about the student whose temper is a bit too quick and hot. They’ll be trying to avoid the student who is too much of a loner or makes threats. They’ll be wary of the bully and the bullied. They’ll be trying to escape those that pose with firearms on social media.

The despair is real, and if you look into the eyes of the young you can feel it.

“Hopefully, we’ll find enough people first of all to vote good put people in,” Kerr said. “But, hopefully, we can find enough people with courage to actually help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues, not building some stupid wall for billions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semiautomatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It’s disgusting.”

Kerr is among those willing to speak up and advocate for change. There are others. And they will be joined by many more who will make it their mission to follow the example of most every civilized society.

If the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001, a single day, could persuade our government to take steps to make air travel safer, how many deadly events does it take to grow the principle and power to say no to the NRA and yes to the safety of children?

Is anybody listening?