Catching up with Muggsy Bogues

Reclaiming the Hornets identity after more than a decade, Charlotte has taken an important step on the road to respectability. (Photo: Greg Forwerck/NBAE/GETTY)

For 14 NBA seasons, Tyrone ‘Muggsy’ Bogues was a favourite of sports fans around the world. The diminutive (and that’s being kind) point guard allowed us to believe that if a five-foot-five guy from Baltimore’s Lafayette Public housing projects could make it in the NBA, then so could we (…and then you see him do things like this and realize that it took an otherworldly level of talent and hard work for Muggsy to make it).

It’s that same ability to inspire that his charity, Always Believe, has tapped into. After a hiatus, Bogues, along with his daughter, Brittney, are busier with the organization than ever.

We caught up with the long-time Hornet and former Raptor to discuss the charity, his newest gig coaching high school basketball in Charlotte, and, of course, Space Jam.

Sportsnet: You have some experience—having coached the Charlotte Sting in the WNBA—but now you’re coaching high school boys at United Faith Christian Academy. What brought you back into the coaching world?

Muggsy Bogues: Well, there was a kid I was looking after—offering guidance and whatnot—and he played for the team at United Faith. About three years ago, the school got rid of their coach, and the kids were all talking about transferring or not being able to keep playing. I didn’t want him and the other kids to have to lose the season, so I stepped in and took over.

SN: As a coach, how different is it going from the professional ranks to high school varsity ball?

MB: I didn’t realize how corrupt it was on this level [laughs], but it’s interesting, because you’re basically teaching the fundamentals all over again, getting kids to learn how to play the right way.

We’ve got skillful kids, but most of them are relying on their athletic ability instead of skill development. So we’re working on that as well as the balance of being a student athlete, which is obviously something they’ll be facing when they get to college.

SN: So do a lot of your guys wind up playing at the next level?

MB: Yeah, it’s been great from that perspective. I’ve got a kid playing now at Indiana University, another kid who was at Florida but transferred this season closer to home at UNC-Charlotte. Another kid is at Portland University, and another at UNC-Asheville. To help these kids achieve that has been tremendous. It’s my third year now and I’m enjoying every minute.

SN: Does it seem like the kids are stunned to be coached by an NBAer, or do they take it in stride?

MB: I’ve been active around the city for a while now, but the kids still seem in awe that I’m their coach. They know about my career and Space Jam and everything I’ve done. It’s a great respect, because they want to be taught. And I enjoy seeing that fruit develop and blossom. It’s definitely rewarding. I’ve got a young team this year, and I’m just looking forward to working with them to bring home that state championship.

SN: You mentioned Space Jam. Half the kids you’re coaching wouldn’t have even been born when that came out, are you surprised how much that movie still resonates?

MB: No, not at all. It was a great movie they put together. And it wasn’t just for kids. Adults can enjoy it, too, so it appeals to everybody. It’s one of those basketball movies that’s totally different than any other out there. When you look at including the Looney Tunes and having Michael Jordan involved in the way he was, and then having us NBA players there. I wish they did a sequel!

SN: What was the filming process like? How long of a commitment was it?

MB: We were there for two weeks shooting that [in Burbank, Cal.]. Those were great times, man, funny times on the set. It was Michael’s comeback year, he was returning to the NBA after his retirement, and Michael had a court built and everything.

You know, I almost wasn’t going to be in the film. I had just had surgery that summer and they had brought in Tim Hardaway to read my lines as well, as a replacement. But they wanted me to do it, and I’m thankful that I was able to finish it out even with the injury. The filmmakers had to put me on a dolly—there’s the scene where we’re all walking down the hospital halls and through a set of doors [at the 1:10 mark in the video below], when [Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley] hit their heads on the door frame. Well, they were pulling me on a dolly during that scene. I was just supposed to move my shoulders like I was walking.

SN: Tell us a little about Always Believe.

MB: We’re just trying to help kids any way we can—educationally, spiritually, socially, intellectually. I let it fall by the wayside when my mom passed away [in 2001], but now that my daughter is full-grown she’s helping me get this started back up again. I couldn’t be happier to have her involved.

SN: How do kids get involved?

MB: We’ve got a number of programs set up, everything from technology workshops in coordination with Microsoft, to a chef’s camp where they can work on their culinary skills, to basketball development and training.

SN: What motivated you to start Always Believe?

MB: Just trying to continue to educate and give them a means, an outlet, where they can go to better themselves. These days too many kids are falling by the wayside. They don’t have that security blanket. And that’s what we try to offer.

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