The FINAL Conversation: A Talk With Rob Brown

Philadelphia is a basketball town… Yeah… We watch the Eagles, but we PLAY basketball!

Depending upon your age, your childhood was filled with visions of one of the following performing majestic feats on the court… Wilt, Dr. J, Barkely, Iverson or Embid/Simmons… At the collegiate level, Ernie Beck, Tom Gola, Guy Rogers, Cliff Anderson, Kenny Durett, Howard Porter, Mike Brooks, Tony Price, John Pinone, Steve Black, Mo Martin, Howard Evans, Ed Pinkney, Lionel Simmons, Mark Macon, Marvin O’Connor, Lynn Greer II and Jameer Nelson are just few of the names that continue to ring long after their playing days were over. But, perhaps, more than anything…

Philadelphia is a Scholastic Basketball town…

We still revere the Overbrook teams of the 1950’s featuring Wilt, Ray Scott’s West Philadelphia squad and the Northeast’s teams led by Rogers, Tee Parham and Sonny Hill. Overbrook’s teams of the 1960’s and early 1970’s featuring guys like Walt Hazzard and Andre McCarter continue to be mentioned whenever “greatness” is the topic. For many, the apex was reached with the Gene Banks led Speedboys of the mid-1970s. Their epic battles with the late great Lewis Loyd are still talked about like the games were played last week. Ricky Tucker, Steve Black and Tony Coster picked up the torch and carried the city into the 1980’s. Rico Washington and Pooh Richardson led Ben Franklin squads picked it up in the early 1980’s. Later that decade Bo Kimble, Hank Gathers, Doug Overton and Heat took Dobbins to the pinnacle. As we entered the 1990’s we entered the Gratz era as Coach Bill Ellerbee put together a string of Nationally dominant teams featuring Harry Moore, Aaron McKie, Rasheed Wallace and a host of other Division I players.


The advent of the charter school movement led directly to a shift in the basketball power structure. Traditional neighborhood high school programs were decimated in just a few short years. The Catholics and and couple Charters filled the void. Carl Arrigale was hired at Neumann and proceeded to put together one of the all-time greatest runs in Philadelphia HS basketball history. Over at Borad and Vine, Roman Catholic has always been one of the better programs in the nation. It is indisputable, the proliferation of charter schools led directly to the demise of traditional neighborhood public high school programs. Catholic schools and eventually a few charter programs became more attractive to the most talented players.

By the mid 2000’s Dan Brinkley had built a powerhouse program at Prep Charter featuring eventual eventual pros like Rodney Green, Marcus Morris and Markeiff Morris. Public supremacy was eventually assumed by Andre Noble and the Imhotep Panther program. Imhotep has been on run that compares favorably to any in the history of Philadelphia scholastic basketball history. The class of 2019, led by 4 year starter Donta Scott, never lost a regular season public league game. They were ranked in the top 25 for their last 3 seasons and 4 of the starters, Scott, Dahmir Bishop, Jamil Riggins and Chereef Knox received Division 1 scholarships.

So.. here we are on the cusp of yet another wonderful high hoops season.

It’s worth noting that things will NEVER be as they have been in the past. As much as the rich history of high school hoops is important one could argue that high school basketball has never been less significant for players seeking to play at the collegiate level.

Shit is just different…


One could easily envision situations where kids could play AAU/grassroots ball, NOT play high school basketball and be recruited at a very high level. The plain and simple fact is High School scholarships are earned in the summer with AAU/grassroots clubs. High School basketball is where college coaches go to follow up on decisions they made between April and July.

If AAU/grassroots basketball is where the action is then the EYBL is center stage. The overwhelming majority of Division 1 basketball prospects play on one of the three shoe company sponsored circuits. Nike (EYBL), Under Armour (UAA) and Adidas (Gauntlet) sponsor self-contained leagues with teams from across the country competing for “National” championships. While Under Armour and Adidas have plenty of talent and regularly produce high major D1 and NBA players, the EYBL is widely considered to be the ‘best” circuit.

There are very few summer basketball events that can generate the excitement associated with Nike’s Peach Jam. The culmination of the EYBL circuit features a level of stagecraft and showmanship unmatched by Under Armour and Adidas. While all three produce top players, many of the biggest names and brightest young basketball stars gravitate to the EYBL Moreover and most importantly, because it takes place during a live recruiting period, the Peach Jam has emerged the most highly anticipated and important event with regards to scouting talent and learning more about potential targets for top college programs. It is also a tremendous opportunity for underrated talents to make a name for themselves in front of college coaches and scouts.

Philadelphia’s representative on the EYBL circuit is Team Final. Chester’s Tyreke Evans NEVER played for the vaunted Chester High program. South Philly’s Dion Waiters NEVER played in Philadelphia’s Public or Catholic Leagues. Both played for Team Final. The list of NBA talent that has come through the Team Final program is extensive. Mike Kidd-Gilchrist, Malachi Richardson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Rakeem Christmas, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Cam Reddish all donned the sky blue and yellow on the EYBL.

That’s a whole LOTTA of NBA players from FUCKIN one program…

The Team Final success in this area begs a lot of questions and invites a criticism from many quarters. What follows are just a few of the questions/criticisms one frequently directed at the program:

1. If they produce so many NBA players, why haven’t they been more successful in the
Peach Jam? Some feel that the Team Final program is geared toward and exclusively
focused on developing 1 or 2 NBA players each year and fails to pay adequate attention
to the other 6-7 players on the team. How does Team Final balance the goals of
highlighting superstars prospects with winning and developing the other players on the roster?

2. Lynn Greer, III, Quade Green, AJ Hoggard and Ahmad Fair are all very talented Philly
guards that clearly wanted to play on the EYBL. These young men left the area to play in
Washington, DC and New York. Chance Westry and Jordan Longino are nationally
ranked prospect from the region that have recently announced that they will be playing on the EYBL out of New York. Why aren’t these kids playing with Team Final? Does Team Final have an obligation to accommodate the top area talent and keep them in the region during the summer months?

3. Given the widespread perception that the EYBL is the “best” circuit and the fact that Washington, DC and New York City have multiple EYBL clubs, should the greater Philadelphia region have multiple EYBL clubs? What is the Team Final position regarding the establishment of a second EYBL club in the region?


These are just a few of the questions that will be posed to Team Final Founder and Director Rob Brown on the Wilson & Woods Show on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at 4:00 pm on 610 ESPN Philadelphia AM. The show is also simulcast LIVE on the Wilson & Woods Facebook page.

Tune in! Do NOT miss this explosive interview!



Loch Haven Pulls Away From Chestnut Hill in 2nd Half

By Eric Dixon, Black Cager Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA – November 17, 2019 – The Chestnut Hill Griffins hosted their home opener and put on an entertaining contest with the Bald Eagles of Loch Haven University Saturday afternoon that ended in a 78-61 win for the visitors. The final score did not indicate the competiveness of the game as the talent of both teams was on display in a game of runs where LHU happened to be the last team to get hot.

Loch Haven Head Coach Mike Nestor knew if he would have to get solid games from his “leadership group” of Christian Kelly, Matt Cerruti and Jesse McPherson if his team was going to leave the stately campus in Northwest Philadelphia with a win. He got that he needed as the three combined for 50 points with the 6-5 Kelly leading the triumvirate with 20.


Matt Cerruti, Loch Haven (l) and Julius Phillips, Chestnut Hill (r)

The Griffins also placed three players in double figures led by Amir Warrick’s 13 markers. The 6-6 guard, who is adjusting to being a primary ball handler, was a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe to help buoy his team through a rough patch from the field as they searched for consistent shot making for the bulk of the afternoon. They never really found it, finishing with a poultry 30% on made field goals.  Scottie Spann, Jr., the former Sankofa Academy standout, chipped in 11 while James Rider, a normally reliable shooter from Baltimore, added 10 points.

The game was played at a good pace and despite scoring droughts that spanned 7 minutes for Chestnut Hill and 4 minutes for Loch Haven, it was very engaging. In addition, both programs have reason to be optimistic going forward as both will welcome key additions next month that will bolster their talented teams. Loch Haven will bring back team leader Jihad Barnes, a 6-1 lead guard from Philadelphia. Chestnut Hill is looking forward to adding former Cheltenham Panthers Ahmad Bickley and Trevonn Pitts, their most productive player last year.

Both head coaches were prescient in pre-game interviews as they spelled out the challenges and positives they expected to see in this early season matchup. Coach  Jesse Balcer expressed concern regarding his teams ability to hold on to the ball. The Griffins proved him prophetic committing 24 turnovers on the day. Coach Nestor expected to lean on his team’s abundance of experience, having several key players in their 2nd and third years in the program.  The cohesion his upperclassmen laden team showed throughout the game was a key in their victory. The Bald Eagles also used that experience to calm themselves and work through early offensive struggles. LHU committed 9 first half turnovers, but only 3 in the second. The Griffins also made significant improvements in their ball handling as the afternoon wore on, committing an alarming 18 first half giveaways, but just 6 in the second.

“We struggled in the first half , but our defense carried us,” said Coach Nestor, adding “I knew we would start hitting shots,” expressing confidence in his team’ offensive abilities. A big reason for this confidence is Christian Kelly, who averaged 20 ppg and 7 rpg last season. Kelly didn’t just play on one side of the ball either, turning in an impressive defensive effort with 4 steals and 4 blocks to help stymie the Chestnut Hill at key junctures of the game.  Kelly, who boasts a 6-8 wingspan and 9-inch mitts, used his “active hands” to disrupt the Griffins most of the game.

Junior Jesse McPherson, formerly of Archbishop Carroll and Simon Gratz product Nasir Campbell, also a junior, provided Loch Haven with strong performances in the paint as well. The quiet McPherson, who prefers to lead by example, provided a inside scoring presence to complement the shooting of Cerruti and slashing of Kelly.  Coach Nestor is excited about the energy and physicality Campbell brings to his team, which struggled to rebound the ball last season.  Campbell threw down a thunderous slam while drawing a foul in the second half  that brought the lively, supportive crowd to their feet.

Chestnut Hill looks to the 6-2 Scottie Spann, Jr. to bring energy when he comes of the bench. “It’s my job to bring energy” said Spann, who is one of the “tough Philly kids” Balcer will rely on going forward. Another is Julius Phillips, an Archbishop Wood product who provided a solid floor game for the Griffins in this contest, finishing with 7 rebounds, 6 points and 4 assists.


Julius Phillps, Chestnut Hill

“Trust the process, trust the coaches and trust each other,” said Phillips when asked what the team needs to grow and improve as the season continues. Another boost will be the addition of Bickley. “The lack of a true point guard really hurt us,” said Coach Balcer. “We weren’t able to get rolling.”

In the immediate future Loch Haven (2-0) will host the Wolves of Cheyney University and Chestnut Hill (0-4) will look to upend the Bloomsburg University Huskies in a road game.


The Historical Significance of Aaron McKie vs Ashley Howard

The rise of black Division 1 college basketball coaches has been very slow and fraught with peril, this is especially the case in Philadelphia. Almost 50 years ago, William J. Robinson was hired as the head coach at Illinois State University. With his appointment, Robinson became the the first black head coach in NCAA Division 1 basketball. Robinson’s breakthrough hiring came 64 years after the NCAA was founded at a meeting in New York City in 1906.


Will Robinson and Doug Collins at Illinois State

For sixty-four years, a 100% white male quota was firmly entrenched…

Situated in the United States, with much of it’s athletic competition taking place in the Apartheid-like Jim Crow American South, the NCAA has been explicitly white supremacist and structurally racist throughout the overwhelming majority of its existence. Let’s be very clear with this terminology. Here, structural racism refers the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color.

For well over half a century, Blacks were formally prevented from playing and coaching. White males benefited immensely from these practices. NCAA member institutions developed and implemented player recruitment and hiring dynamics that advantaged white males and produced adverse outcomes for Black players and coaches.

These facts are not disputed by any serious observer of the history of collegiate athletics and the NCAA.

The NCAA and the majority of its member institutions, for decades, just didn’t FUCK with Black people… Like most of white America…


Duke Men’s Basketball Team 1966-67

The NCAA implemented a system of hierarchy and inequity, primarily characterized by white supremacy. The NCAA, college presidents and athletic directors gave preferential treatment, privilege and power to white people at the expense of Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Arab and other racially oppressed people. The system was structurally racist.

Of course, one should keep in mind that this structural racism, from the moment of inception, diffused and infused in all aspects of American society, including our history, culture, politics, economics and our entire social fabric. Of course, collegiate sports would be no different. It would futile to argue otherwise.

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John Thompson and Patrick Ewing, Georgetown University

Once dismissed as a group by the college president’s and athletic director’s wrongheaded thinking based on skin color, Black college coaches have proven they possess the tenacity, smarts and talent needed to thrive at the Division 1 level. They have been National Champions (John Thompson, Georgetown 1984, Nolan Richardson, Arkansas 1994 and Tubby Smith, Kentucky 1998). They have won National Coach of the Year awards and several have been enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In some important ways, the gap has been closed. Philadelphia’s vaunted Big 5, however, continues to lag well behind.

Earlier today, Ashley Howard and Aaron McKie led La Salle and Temple into battle at Gola Arena. These young men are Philadelphia products through and through. Howard is the son of Philly schoolboy legend Maurice “Mo” Howard. He was introduced to the college coaching profession by James “Bruiser” Flint after medical issues ended his playing career following his sophomore season at Drexel University. McKie was raised by the late Philadelphia grassroots coaching/training legend John Hardnett. He went on to become a Big 5 legend while playing for the Hall of Fame Coach, John Chaney.

Given their impeccable credentials, its not surprising to find these two roaming Big 5 sidelines. They are Philly basketball lifers like Harry Litwack, Jimmy Lynam, Don Casey, Lefty Ervin, John Griffin, Phil Martelli and Fran Dunphy.

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Ashley Howard, La Salle Head Coach

What is surprising is the fact that on November 16, 2019 we witnessed just the fourth game featuring two Black coaches in the illustrious history of the Big 5. John Chaney and Temple defeated Penn and Quakers coached by Craig Littlepage on February 9, 1983 (61-53), February 8, 1984 (81-57) and December 8, 1984 (70-57). Until today, those three games represented the entire universe of Big 5 games featuring two Black coaches.


Aaron McKie, Temple Head Coach

The Big 5 was founded in 1955, right after LaSalle won the NCAA Championship. Thus, it has been in existence for 63 full seasons. This represents the 64th year. Each team plays 4 Big 5 games a year, except for the few years following Rollie Massimino’s misguided dissolution of the round robin format. This means that each team has played roughly 252 Big 5 games. With five Big 5 programs, the total number of games played comes in around 1,260. One can subtract a few for the years immediately following the Massimino debacle. But for illustrative purposes, we’ll use the aforementioned numbers.
Before today, out of approximately 1,260 Big 5 games, exactly three (3) featured two Black head coaches. Significantly less than 1% of Big 5 Basketball games ever played had two teams led by Black coaches. The exact number is 0.24% of the games.

That made today’s game historically significant in many ways. One should not be surprised that Temple and La Salle are moving the ball down field in this area. These institutions have a strong track record of inclusion and diversity at the leadership level. Temple has had a Black Athletic Director, a Black football coach and three Black women’s basketball coaches. The current COO is Black. La Salle has a Black Athletic Director, a Black University Chief of Staff and they have had a Black women’s basketball coach.

It should be noted that Penn has also had a Black Athletic Director and two Black basketball head coaches. All you can ask for is an opportunity. Penn, La Salle and Temple get it!

It is truly refreshing to see high-major kids like Clifton Moore (La Salle) and Jake Forester (Temple) transferring to La Salle and Temple from Indiana after Howard and McKie were in place. The local high school recruiting has also picked up since these guys have been on the trail. Black parents have repeatedly indicated that seeing Black men in leadership positions on campus has impacted their decision-making. This makes perfect sense!

Why would you send your precious Black boy to an institution that has NEVER had a Black man in a leadership position throughout it’s existence? Why? So many institutions have demonstrated a commitment to fairness in the hiring process.

For example, Princeton has had 2 Black basketball coaches. Delaware has also had two. Georgetown has had three. Rutgers has had two. Pitt and St. John’s currently have Black coaches. Rider, Wagner and Monmouth also have Black coaches in place.

It matters… Go where Black men are respected and given an opportunity to lead! He may become the Head Coach or Athletic Director once his playing days are over.

The complete absence of Blacks in leadership positions throughout the history of an institution and in the current athletic department can ONLY be explained one way. The same way one would explain their complete absence in the NCAA from 1906 to 1970.

There’s some racist bullshit going on…