With off-court news rightfully dominating headlines, this may very well be a timely one. As we highlight four personalities within the realm of Syracuse basketball, we’ll cover names that have done some great things, both locally in Syracuse – and the Central New York area – and beyond. Whether be the captivity of these four personalities or displayed charitable nature, hopefully a spotlight on some of the things each one has done and moments they have been a part of will serve as a nice pick-me-up during these chaotic times.
To start off this four-part series, let’s roll right into No. 4.
No. 4: Derrick Coleman
It’s unfortunate that some people immediately correlate Coleman’s name with negative traits. There’s been articles published in the past calling him “lazy” and a “bust” in the NBA despite – after being selected first overall in 1990 – playing 15 seasons. Sure, the once extremely promising power forward didn’t quite live up to expectations after his time at Syracuse, in large part to several injuries. He also admittedly displayed maturity issues throughout his playing career. Just ask Karl Malone, for one. But, to say the 1991 NBA Rookie of the Year didn’t turn things around after his playing days would be naïve. In fact, it’s this feel-good element in his comeback story that has Coleman sneaking onto this list.
It certainly took some time for Coleman to right the ship after originally falling in over his head financially, a few years after his retirement. It wasn’t until 2010 – when bankruptcy forced him back to Detroit – that Coleman seemed to show new signs of life. The evidence was reflected in the form of helping others.
In 2016, Coleman began assisting residents in Flint, Michigan, who endured the crisis of lead-infested tap water, leaving many people poisoned – including children, infants and their families. Living in Detroit, Coleman drove 65 miles to Flint each and every day to deliver to deliver cases of water to Flint residents, providing them with food as well as eating utensils and drinking cups.
Just a few years later, Coleman started up a youth camp in Detroit, providing kids with basketball training, but also educational opportunities in reading, arts, math and technology. The camp takes place in the very community in Detroit Coleman grew up in.
All in all, Coleman’s turnaround story is one worth mentioning as it’s great to see a former star in the Syracuse program has been able to overcome adversity and past issues in a positive way.