I’ve been fortunate enough to work with all kinds of coaches in various situations, so my next statement will also come with all kinds of respect and perspective: The best coaches are those, who use to play. Point, blank, period. When you’re able to be around them, you’ll get a strong sense for how they use to operate as ex-athletes and which strengths, they kept with them right now. It’s an experience, I’ve been undergoing as I’ve watched Keith Bogans become an assistant coach.
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Prior to the start of his coaching career with the Westchester Knicks in 2017, Bogans played 13 seasons in the NBA and was a well known “three and D” player, who played on various teams, most notably Chicago, Orlando, and San Antonio. Not to mention, the former Kentucky product played with many noticeable players (Derrick Rose, Tracy McGrady, and Tim Duncan), while also being coached by the best of them (Greg Popovich).
I recently spoke with Coach Bogans prior to a W-Knicks home game, last month.
Arden: To focus on the W-Knicks right now, what are certain things which has turned you guys into a winning team?
Keith: I would say, we’re focusing a lot on the little things, and when you do so, it tends to work out. We’ve improved our abilities to box out and pass better. So with either skill being much better for us, it helps along the way.
A: You’ve been in Westchester for a couple of years now. When looking back, was there anything in particular which convinced you this was the place to be?
K: It’s funny to think about it, but during my playing career, I always wanted to play for the New York Knicks. I use to tell people this all the time, and I really wanted to. Especially when thinking about the fans and how much, they appreciate blue-collar players like myself. So when the opportunity to coach here was presented, I had to take it. (W-Knicks General Manager) Allan Houston talked me into doing it and I felt it was the right decision.
A: Did you ever have thoughts of coaching during your playing career?
K: No, no, no! (laughs). I never thought, I would coach as I felt, I couldn’t handle these guys. But what happened was, I went up to Canada and followed Jerry Stackhouse during his first season of coaching the Raptors 905. And Jerry, by the way, is like a big brother to me. I actually came up during their training camp and once, I experienced everything, my love and passion for coaching began. Jerry even allowed me to coach a little bit and be hands on and that added more fuel to the fire.
A: Are you able to channel that same motivation and attention to detail through coaching?
K: Oh, absolutely! For example, when certain players are upset and don’t get their way sometimes, I’ll tell them to meet me after practice tomorrow, so we can play one on one and they could take their frustration out on me. Or whenever Coach Miller and I are watching film and he’s interested in knowing why a player made a certain decision, I can rely on my playing experience in order to show him what happened. I have a different perspective when coaching and it’s a huge plus for me.
A: It’s crazy to think about, but not many people know of the playing career, you actually had. What were some of your favorite memories?
K: It was honestly being able to play with so many great players and coached by great coaches. I really appreciate the coaches, I played for as I was always able to take something from them, including in high school. But when looking at my current coaching situation, I’m impressed by Coach Miller. He’s one of the more organized coaches, I’ve been around and he’s so smart.
And with certain players, I played with, I always had those moments of realization, where I was amazed to play with them. For example, during my rookie year (2003-’04) in Orlando, I would tell Juwan Howard of how I use to watch him and Chris Webber play when they were on the Washington Bullets (the former name of the now Wizards). Then suddenly, I had Juwan take me under his wing and I also become cool with Grant Hill and T-Mac. Even though we were a losing team (21-61), it was still great experiencing that, as those veterans played on winning teams and knew what it was like.
A: As someone who had the reputation of being a good defender, who were your toughest match up’s?
K: It’s very tough to choose from, as I faced a lot of great scorers during my time. Scorers such as Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, Paul Pierce, and Allen Iverson. I could go on and on about the scorers, I faced. But there was a deeper meaning to playing defense on that level. It’s honestly a game within the game. Could I take away his favorite spots? Do I know of the little details in his game? There was so many things, I had to focus on and if I did most of those things in the right way, than I was fine with what happened.
A: You’re currently coaching this generation of basketball players and will likely coach, the next one. What have been the pro’s and con’s of this job?
K: Just dealing with with social media. It’s so different than before, when you had to watch ESPN or read an magazine to discover who’s good or if you were worth the hype. Now it’s different, because these guys don’t have to play much in order to get attention. They could literally play for two minutes and when it’s over, there’s someone in the locker room, telling them of what they did. This generation and the next don’t work as hard or even do things, like I use to. Players are barely playing five on five these days. It’s always about training and filming it, so you could post your little clip and move on. I often ask players, are they a real basketball player or IG player?
A: How do you feel about former players talking about the game? Sometimes it’s made for controversial moments and I believe, many of them shouldn’t talk about it, as they don’t have a clue. Scottie Pippen recently made headlines for his thoughts on MJ & LeBron.
K: It definitely makes for an interesting conversation, to say the least. But I will say this. It’s hard to keep an old opinion about basketball as the game is constantly changing. And when that happens, you should change your thought process. I often have the younger players come to me and assume I know everything, but I tell them, I could still learn from them. Because if I don’t, I will be left behind.
But when it comes to the likes of Pip, it’s hard to change their minds (laughs). Pip is a legend, has won championships, and played with the best. In my opinion, he has every right to feel the way, he feels. As for me? I can’t do that. I rather have the ability to change my mind, if I’m able to learn something new just based off of what I’ve done and can do.