Paul Gripper lived a legendary life. My man was a a true Philly hoops legend… A legend is defined as an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field. Gripp was both famous and notorious in Philly hoops circles…
He was famous for devoting himself to helping young men improve themselves. Paul was a basketball lifer… He gave the game EVERYTHING he had…
He was notorious for the way he would relentlessly attack and attack all aspects of youth basketball. As a young man, Paul engaged in some of Philadelphia’s “street business” activities… Eventually, he tired of that life and made the switch to working full-time in youth athletics. He brought a level of abrasiveness and bravado that had heretofore been absent. Paul ran up the score… Up 40? Up 50? Paul was pressing, forcing turnovers and talkin’ shit!
The totality of his life experiences shaped his outlook and he brought a unique approach to the worlds of grassroots and scholastic basketball. Paul Gripper played HARD and loved HARD!
As a result, he forged extremely strong bonds with the kids that came through his program. He truly loved them and they loved him in return. There was nothing fake about Paul Gripper… He put his feelings on display for all to see… ALL THE TIME!
Possessing a very keen basketball mind, Paul was one of the go to guys for honest appraisals of any young middle or high school prospects. He would ALWAYS give it to you raw and uncut… Gripp was NEVER a hater… If he felt a kid was good, he would tell you… Conversely, if he felt a kid was ASS, he would tell you… On most occasions, his assessments were dead on…
He was always colorful, insightful and informative.
There were exceptions though… Gripp was usually unable to objectively assess the kids he personally worked with… He loved TOO HARD! His love would slip over into his assessments of his guys.
His D3 guys were “sure fire D2” guys… His D2 guys “should be playing D1″… His low D1 guys “belonged at high major programs”… His mid to high major guys were “lottery picks”…
Paul was a fantastic scout… Unless, the kid was one of his, his assessments of a kid’s strengths and weaknesses were on point… You just had to always remember that Paul graded his guys on a heavy curve.
Selfless to a fault, Paul would literally give a kid his last dollar to get to a tournament or camp… He would REPEATEDLY rob Peter to pay Paul (and St. John Neumman).
He was a real man. If you had a disagreement with Paul, he would not let it fester and simmer. He would call or come by to see you. He was capable of both forgiving your transgressions and acknowledging when he was wrong.
His son is a graduate of Coppin State University. His daughter is completing a PhD. at Harvard University. Their academic success is reflective of their father’s powerful intellect and his commitment to education as a means of improving one’s lot in life.
Paul and I had several arguments and disagreements in this area. I have always been in favor of doing whatever was necessary to help a kid meet NCAA freshman eligibility requirements. Paul disagreed. He was against asking teachers to change grades, he was against taking classes over.
Paul felt that kids needed to deal with the consequences of their actions and inaction in the academic realm. I really respected him for consistently abiding by that position.
His passing is a significant blow the the Philadelphia basketball community. Paul will be missed. There is one less MAN out there loving kids HARD!
Personally, I will miss my friend. Out of respect for Paul, I will now make an effort to repair the few damaged relationships I have in the Philadelphia basketball community. Because, that’s what Paul Gripper would have done.