“Now, let me ask you: If Orlando gets Dwight Howard and they bring in a big man like Patrick Ewing to work with him, and the Lakers get Andrew Bynum and they bring in Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] to work with him, you would think it would make sense to get a coach like that for JaVale, right?”
Asked if she addressed the concerns with anyone, she nods yes (JaVale’s agent said it would come at McGees’ expense). The club maintains that assistant coach Don Zierden acts as a big-man coach for JaVale and other post players, and they were unaware of Pamela’s specific concerns.
Pamela and JaVale actually paid UCLA assistant coach Scott Garson to work with McGee over the summer, which he credits for his improved footwork and swooping hook shot. Reached by telephone in Los Angeles, Garson said he found McGee to be a “very hard worker who did everything I asked of him.”
“I brought him into the UCLA Hall of Fame and showed him films of Kareem,” Garson says. “He picks things up very, very quickly. The thing about a kid that talented and that size, you have to grab his attention. I don’t know the situation there, but if I were a big-time future center, I would want to learn from someone who’s been to where I want to go.”
JaVale? “I think that would definitely help me,” he said after Wednesday’s win. “Working with Coach Garson, some days I went through whole workouts without a single jump shot.”
Of the play that brought him so much criticism, he adds, “I understand: Because we were losing, it looks bad. If we’re winning, no one says anything about it. It bothers me when people want to label me after something like that, like that’s all I stand for or I’m part of a group — when I’m my own man.”
JaVale also acknowledges, yes, Pamela can be a Little League parent sometimes: “You know she’s takin’ my side on things. That’s my mom; we’re close.”
His mother was his AAU coach from 9 years old to sixth grade, getting up at 6 a.m. to work on drills with him. Trying to toughen up her son in the post when the ball dropped below JaVale’s chest as a child, “I hit him in the chest with my fist,” Pamela said.
“You’re my mother,” the boy would wince, “how could you do that to me?”
Pamela: “You stinkin’ up the gym, that’s why. I’m your coach right now.”
JaVale quit till his friends that trained with Pamela made varsity. He started up again in ninth grade with a caveat from Mom: “I’ll take you back, on one condition: When I say jump, you say how high. It wasn’t about basketball; it was about life. It was about discipline.”
Even then, Pamela McGee does not want her son “institutionalized in losing.” She couldn’t even deal with him finishing second to Griffin in the last year’s All-Star Weekend dunk contest.
“We don’t do second,” she said. “We win championships. He’s a McGee. He has to come back to All-Star and represent.”
You realize after 30 minutes there is no sense bringing the hammer down on the kid’s 24th birthday. Mama McGee won’t have it. Her child just needs time to learn and grow, maybe from a big man he respects. After all, she knows best. Just ask her.