Set for Life: Kenny Anderson

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Former prep, college and NBA star Kenny Anderson discusses the transition from playing basketball to being a full-time dad.

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Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 25, 2009; 2:00 PM

Post staff writer Dave Sheinin will be online Friday, Sep. 25 at 2:00 p.m. ET to take your questions about his latest entry in the Set for Life Series on former Nets star Kenny Anderson.

You can read

this installment of the Set for Life Series

here.

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Dave Sheinin: Hey, everyone. Thanks for dropping by. This is being billed, quite properly, as a chat pertaining to my "Set For Life" series on retired athletes. But you know me -- if you've got a baseball question (heck, the playoffs are right around the corner), I'll be happy to take a stab.

Let's do this...

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Any surprises?: Were you surprised about the level of Kenny Anderson's contrition? Where did it stack up when compared to other former pros you've followed in this series?

Dave Sheinin: It's hard to compare them, because of all the subjects we've done in the series, Anderson had by far the most to be contrite about. I was perhaps a bit surprised by how open he was about his mistakes, but I think that's all part of the process of trying to turn his life around.

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Re: Kenny Anderson: Dave, I thought you did an admirable job of presenting the facts of Kenny Anderson's life, good and bad. But even as he appears to be acting in a mature and responsible fashion, it's hard not to retain some disgust for his past behavior (seven kids from five women and millions of dollars blown along the way).

Did you find this story a tough one in which to find that balance?

Dave Sheinin: Yes, it was difficult sometimes to find the right balance, but I kept returning to the themes of the series: it's an examination of the lives of former athletes who have retired after cashing in on the first big explosion of free-agent money that came during the 1990s. I certainly didn't ignore the mistakes he had made during his playing days, but I tried to keep the focus to his efforts to change himself for the better in retirement.

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Washington, D.C.: Dave,

Please give me one reason to go to Nats Park during this final homestand.

Thanks

Dave Sheinin: Well... uh... let's see.

1) The Braves (in town this weekend) are still on the fringes of the wild-card chase. (And Bobby Cox might get ejected.)

2) You never know where the Nats will be playing Ian Desmond next. (Maybe catcher?)

3) Adam Dunn needs two more homers to reach 40 -- not AT LEAST 40, but exactly 40 -- for the fifth straight year (!).

4) The Presidents Race.

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Be honest now: Is it frustrating interviewing athletes who have made tens of millions of dollars only to squander their riches and then claim that they were never really that rich at all?

As a journalist who -- one can only imagine -- isn't about to hit the $1 million per mark, what is that dynamic like?

Dave Sheinin: Honestly, I never found it frustrating. I found it fascinating. I've been around pro sports long enough that I'm shocked by neither the money itself, nor the behavior of athletes who have it.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, Dave. I 'm not sure how to phrase this for a family paper, but in addition to money management, young athletes need to learn hot not to father so many children!

I work with inner city youth, who know more than we do about NBA stars who who father a great many children, often without marrying their mothers, and then pretty much leave the scene. I'm pleased Kenny Anderson is finally stepping up to the plate on this one, but, as Sports Illustrated keeps reminding us, most of his peers are not so responsible, as he himself was not for many years. Maybe at some point he could become a role model for this new approach? I know the kids I deal with would listen a lot more to him than they do to me.

Dave Sheinin: I think Kenny does want to be a role model in that regards. He spoke a handful of times about trying to convince boys and younger men not to make the same mistakes he did. He said it in the context of his own sons, the college kids he hopes to coach someday, and young pro athletes.

It's obviously a huge problem for society in general, not just sports.

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Washington, D.C.: Dave,

Great Article!! Do you think more athletes can learn from Kenny Anderson's experience? Does he mentor young pro players now? Should he?

Dave Sheinin: He's not really doing any mentoring of pro athletes at this point. He's really focused on getting his degree, then landing a college coaching job.

It's worth pointing out, however, that NBA rookies are required to attend a rookie seminar in which they are counseled on avoiding situations such as fathering out-of-wedlock children.

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The Nation's Capital of Crappy Baseball: Dave,

There is so much lala land talk about Ian Desmond going on right now. Sure, he's been playing well, but earlier in the season, Alberto Gonzalez was going to be starting 2B for our Nats generation, and now he's chopped liver. Over-hyping is the Nats front office and fans' m.o. What happens when major league pitchers figure Desmond out?

Dave Sheinin: Yeah, but Gonzalez never hit .330 in the minors, like Desmond did. (In Gonzalez's last two full seasons, he hit .266 and .247 at Class AA and AAA.)

I'm not saying Desmond is the next Derek Jeter, but when you have a 24-year-old kid who looks like he can hit in the big leagues -- and your farm system has produced exactly one solid big leaguer (Ryan Zimmerman) in five years in Washington -- is it out of the question to run the kid out to shortstop every day and see what he can do?

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Dave Sheinin: By the way, on that last answer I meant one solid big league POSITION PLAYER in five years. Obviously, the farm system has produced a handful of decent pitchers.

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Queen Anne's County: Dave,

I have free tickets for the Nats on Sunday but the beer is expensive and the Nats stink. The Redskins play at Detroit against the Lie-Downs. But I think I'd rather stay home and watch the PBS cooking shows and drink my own beer.

Am I crazy?

Dave Sheinin: I need to know what section your tickets are in before I can answer this. If you've got great seats and they're free, use 'em. If not, stay home and drink your beer.

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Kenny Anderson the coach?: Does Kenny Anderson actually have a future as a pro coach at some level? He strikes me as a potential D-League head man who could actually eventually land at a D-I program ... or as an NBA assistant. Don't you think he could have helped Sebastian Telfair?

Dave Sheinin: I got a chance to watch Kenny coaching a high school team for a couple of hours, and I thought he was a natural. The players certainly responded to him. But I see him in the college ranks, as opposed to the D-league or any other pro situation. He's prepared to start low -- an assistant at a smaller school -- and work his way up.

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Playoff picks: Assuming the wild cards go to form and Detroit holds on in the AL Central -- and yes, those are still big assumptions -- who do you like in the respective playoff races? And why?

AL: Yankees vs. Tigers

Angels vs. Red Sox

NL: Dodgers vs. Cardinals

Phillies vs. Rockies

Dave Sheinin: Yankees vs. Tigers: I like the Yankees because of rotation depth (now that Pettitte and Burnett appear fine) and because of their explosive offense. But this won't be a cakewalk, especially if they get Series "A" (with the extra off day), which means Verlander and Edwin Jackson both pitch twice.

Red Sox vs. Angels: I'll take Red Sox. The Angels have a deeper rotation (arguably), but no one can match the Lester-Beckett combo.

Dodgers vs. Cardinals: Definitely Cardinals. The Dodgers' rotation is extremely suspect these days (Randy Wolf in Game 1?) And the Cardinals, with Carpenter and Wainwright, are loaded.

Phillies vs. Rockies: The Rockies have been the best team in the NL since May 29 (the day Jim Tracy took over). I think I like them to make the World Series, which means I guess I have to pick them here. It helps that the back end of the Phillies' bullpen is a disaster.

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Anonymous: Mr. Sheinen, did you talk to any of Mr. Anderson's ex-wives? I'm close friends with one of them, and I can assure you she did not marry him for the money. Sure, she had a huge mansion, but she couldn't drive his fancy cars and had no money to feed and clothe her children.

Once she got "fat and ugly" (pregnant), he cheated on her with every woman in sight. She's pleased that he seems to have turned things around and now wants to be a good father, but is still struggling financially and afraid her children will be hurt again if he again drops out of their lives.

Dave Sheinin: I did not speak to any of his ex-wives, because I didn't want the story to become a he-said/she-said scenario regarding events that occurred before Anderson's retirement. I outlined the charges against him and allowed him to respond, but most of all I focused on what he's doing about it now.

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Rockies over Phillies!?!: You feel comfortable enough with the Colorado pitching to take it over Lee-Hamels? And with Blanton pitching the way he has lately? And with the boppers getting to hit in Denver on the road?

Dave Sheinin: Yeah, I know. Seems crazy. But there's something to be said for a team (the Rockies) who have been the best team in the NL, by record, for four months now. People also don't realize Ubaldo Jimenez is capable of dominating any lineup on any given day.

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Easton, Md.: Sure, he's no longer a zillionaire, or is he? But Kenny Anderson still seems to be living pretty well. Did he salvage some earnings before it was too late? I have to say, and I know this is politically incorrect, I'd love to be a househusband but would feel sort of funny about living off my wife's earnings.

Dave Sheinin: He doesn't seem to have any hang-ups about staying at home while his wife works. I think that's because he sees it as a temporary situation that will change after he gets his degree in May and begins the job search.

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Laurel, Md.: Dave, can you work in a baseball question? I'm bummed out by the current baseball scene, with the O's and the Nats both tanking, and the Yanks looking to be world champs once again. No pennant races to speak of, nothing looks to change for the future ... Should I just develop an interest in another sport? I've no use for football or hockey, but basketball might be a possibility ...

Dave Sheinin: I wouldn't give up on baseball yet. The playoffs are setting up to be very, very intriguing. Lots of great starting pitching. I mean, a Sabathia/Verlander matchup in Game 1?

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Catonsville, Md.: Very nice and inspiring article, but one thing still sticks in my craw: When Kenny Anderson says that $60 million seems like a lot of money but ... Even with taxes (which can be minimized with careful planning) and agent fees, he'd still have around $40 million and, speaking as a laid-off worker about to lose my home, I'd like to point out that this is indeed a lot of money. There are many people in my boat who would be very grateful for a tiny percentage of his largesse. I hope he raises is kids with better values than he had.

Dave Sheinin: I agree with you, of course. And I'd venture to guess that Anderson regrets saying that, once he saw it on the printed page (or computer screen, as the case may be).

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More on Kenny: How hard do you think it is for a former All-Star like Anderson to live up to the fact that huge facets of his life have been a failure?

Given the makeup of pro athletes, and their driven obsession to succeed at everything, do you think that intrinsically makes it tougher for them to come to grips with all the mistakes they make during their careers?

And do they ever try to write those mistakes off as "occupational hazards", since their mentality helped drive them into those errors (or so they might think)?

Dave Sheinin: I think it's very difficult. If you go back to the Peter Boulware piece (the first in the series), he says it's difficult finding that next chapter in life, because you've always been the best at what you've done, your entire life. And when you start thinking about another pursuit, you don't want to be just sort-of good at it.

Now, couple that with the failures Kenny has had in his life, and I think it's probably a very hard thing to live with. However (and I hope this was conveyed in the piece), he has latched on to some things that give him a chance at success -- family and coaching.

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washingtonpost.com: Set For Life: Boulware Searching for the Next Goal Line (Washington Post, May 24)

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Sabathia/Verlander: Am I crazy to think Verlander might have the edge in that one, even in New York? If he did, wouldn't he also be lined up for a game in Detroit, meaning that two Verlander wins would put the Tigers right on the edge of knocking out the Yankees again?

Seems significantly more plausible than I had thought it was. It really does.

Dave Sheinin: No question about it. That's the game I can't wait to see.

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Best Game 1 ALDS match up: What's the best match up from the opening day of the playoffs you can remember? Obviously, that potential Sabathia-Verlander face off would be pretty incredible.

Which past ones top it?

Dave Sheinin: Oooh. Great question. I'd have to think more about it, but off the top of my head I remember Mussina/Randy Johnson (Orioles/Mariners) in 1997 as being particularly epic.

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He Could Have Been Travis Henry: Do you think Kenny Anderson ever reflects on just how bad all of his fathering could have been? Former Broncos running back Travis Henry has 10 children from eight different mothers, and now he's in jail for failing to pay child support, largely because he couldn't afford any of the scheduled payments when he slid out of the NFL.

How cognizant is Anderson that he was a really bad ACL injury away from a similar situation?

Dave Sheinin: That's a great question, and I didn't ask it.

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Workaholic Coaches: If Kenny goes back and becomes a coach, won't he spend as little time around his current family as he used to around his children? Coaches put in some serious, long hours.

Isn't collegiate coaching exactly the wrong profession for him to go into if he's hoping to keep his progress in being a responsible family man in place?

Dave Sheinin: Plenty of coaches, college and pro, are excellent family men, so I wouldn't agree that a college coaching job would preclude him from being a good father or husband.

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Alexandria, Va.: I notice that Kenny Anderson had his first daughter while he was still in college, i.e., before he was rich. Did he try to do right by her? I'm a man but am troubled by the image of greedy women always trying to take men to the cleaners. He fathered these children and courts will award child support consistent with his means, which were considerable.

Obviously I can't comment on his particular situation, but very few women (Paul McCartney's ex?) get rich following a divorce. I really doubt the mothers of his children (two ex-wives, three ex-girlfriends?) are living high on the hog while he struggles.

Dave Sheinin: Again, I really wanted to avoid an ugly and drawn-out he-said, she-said about every child support situation he encountered as a player, because that wasn't what the series is about. I did, of coruse, gain some knowledge about some of these situations in the course of my reporting, but am not in position to detail those things here.

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Dice-K role: What price Daisuke Matsuzaka's redemption in the postseason? He's looked pretty solid since returning, though it seems -- from what I've heard around the Boston media -- that Buchholz would be the No. 3 starter. Does Matsuzaka have a significant postseason role to play ... and a significant future with the Red Sox?

Dave Sheinin: Well, Matsuzaka definitely has a significant role for the Red Sox, whether it's the No. 3 or No. 4 starter. He would almost certainly get at least one start in every postseason series, should the Red Sox advance. (Last year, for example, Joe Blanton, the Phillies' No. 4, started in every series.)

Yeah, he's pitched better sicne his return, but the mere fact the Red Sox would consider moving Buchholz -- who, despite his prodigious gifts, is completely untested -- ahead of Matsuzaka speaks volumes as to their distrust of him.

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Cleveland, Ohio: Two moribund franchises, both in need of being built back up. As an Indians fan, I'm worried they didn't get nearly as much as they thought from the Phillies or Red Sox.

But are the Indians still better off than the Nats? It seems like the Nats will always be in building mode ...

Dave Sheinin: At least the Indians HAD a Cliff Lee and a Victor Martinez to use as trade bait to build up their future. I think that alone gives them a head start over the Nationals. Don't write off those trades yet.

At the same time, Strasburg changes the whole equation for the Nationals, both in reality and in perception.

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Dave Sheinin: OK, folks. We're out of time. Thanks for the excellent questions. Enjoy your weekend.

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