Coach with professional background gets attention
In a time when sports are rife with awful tales involving Lance Armstrong, Joe Paterno, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, Sean Colson is a breath of fresh air. He’s one of the good guys. Colson, the rookie head basketball coach at undefeated Martin Luther King Jr. High School, has taken the city by storm. He wasn’t the most well-known of the city’s amazing basketball class of 1993, yet the former Franklin Learning Center point guard excelled at Maine Central Institute, Rhode Island, and UNC-Charlotte before a short NBA career with Houston and Atlanta and nine successful years dribbling and shooting in France, Italy, and Russia. His fellow 1993 city alumni were also successful, namely, NBA all-star and two-time league champion Rasheed Wallace (still playing in the NBA with the Knicks), Tyrone Weeks, Faron “Meatball” Hand, NBA guard Alvin Williams, NBA player Jason Lawson, and Colson’s best friend, Cuttino Mobley, who played for many years in the NBA before health concerns forced his retirement.
Unlike many stories about former star players from the city’s storied Public League, the tale of Colson and his friends’ successes is one of the most positive stories ever for a group of guys graduating from Philadelphia high schools together. “We all had a lot of success, and I want to make sure the kids I teach every day now get a feel for success,” Colson said.
Some may say Colson, 37, is experiencing his most individual success right now and many in the city are very happy for him. The former Houston Rocket and Atlanta Hawk has his unheralded squad off to a 15-0 start that is slowly turning heads in the Philadelphia high-school scene. “He’s been doing a great job for us,” said Duane Ramer, last year’s coach and now the school’s athletic director. School principal William Wade and Ramer deserve the credit for bringing someone of Colson’s pedigree to King, a school which has not had much hoops success over the past four decades.
“Mr. Wade reached out to me, as did Duane,” said Colson. “I’m a hard worker who had been training players like [Friends’ Central’s Amile Jefferson and Temple University’s Kalif Wyatt] for the past 18 months since I came back from playing overseas. I think that I have a track record of developing kids and making them better. Plus, I can coach. I have seen it all, and have taken a little bit of knowledge and strategies from coaches I played for all over the world, like Rudy [Tomjanovich] back to King. Some people are good with Xs and Os but don’t make players better. I feel I am doing both.”
So far, King has beaten Bartram, Methacton, Frankford, Life Center (NJ), Olney and Simon Gratz. No team has lost to King by less than 10 points. Colson said that his team has eight very good players who can play any style: halfcourt, press, zone, transition, etc. “The knock on the Public League has been that teams like to go up and down the floor, not play defense, and don’t have good coaching,” he said. “That’s not true. Our guys will play any style that is dictated to us. I am trying to have them prepared for anything.”
King has received great production from double-digit scorers Fa’Teem Glenn, a senior point guard; Roman Catholic transfer Raquan Brown-Johnson; and junior 6-foot-4-inch swingman Greg Bennett. King plays in the “C” Division, which does not have premier programs such as Robert Vaux; Imhotep Charter; Communications Tech; Philadelphia Electrical and Tech; and Math, Civics and Sciences in it. Some of those teams agreed to play King this season when they saw how the first-year coach has brought them into the forefront.
“King is doing great,” Vaux coach Jamie Ross said. “They will be a great challenge for us. They are well-coached and are playing hard.”
Like many old-timers who played in an era when traditional big schools like Franklin Learning Center, Gratz, Overbrook, Frankford, Strawberry Mansion and West Philadelphia owned city basketball, Colson has noticed how schools that didn’t exist 20 years ago are dominating.
“I am not saying it’s a bad thing or good thing,” he said. “I just know that, over time, things change, and for everyone we have to adjust to the emergence of these charter schools that are doing so well. I’m hoping that a kid from our neighborhood will want to come to King for academics, take advance academic courses here, and want to play for a good coach and a winning program. I am excited to stay here for a while and see what we can accomplish. I want these kids to know what success is and to have dreams. You don’t have to make the NBA to be successful, but basketball is a vehicle for more to be gained in your life.”