Jerome Allen, one of the top assistants on the Boston Celtics and a candidate for their open head coaching position, has been offered an assistant coach position with the Detroit Pistons and is in Detroit meeting with the team today, reports Marc Spears of The Undefeated.
How seriously he would be in moving on from Boston assuming he is not named the head coach remains to be seen, but he is a well-regarded coach and at just 47 years old could be an heir apparent to Dwane Casey in Detroit. Allen is also reportedly interviewing for the head coaching job in Portland.
Allen spent years bouncing around the NBA and playing overseas before becoming the head coach at University of Pennsylvania for six seasons before a bribery scandal took him down. He moved form Penn to joining the Celtics staff and has been there ever since.
Allen grew up poor in Philadelphia but made his way to Penn’s Wharton Business School turning down several D-1 athletic scholarships for a chance to attend the exclusive ivy league school.
In Boston, Allen works closely with the young Celtics players and shares in the credit for the development of Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. His coaching responsibilities reportedly focused on how Boston would attack their opponents’ defensive schemes.
Allen admitted to taking $300,000 in bribes to help get a wealthy businessman’s son into Penn and was given a 15-year show-cause penalty that will effectively keep him out of the collegiate coaching ranks until 2035.
Allen wrote a book about his life experiences, including the college bribery scandal, and spoke to Spears in a great Q&A. His comments and journey are especially interesting considering Detroit is a predominately Black city with the rare combination of a Black general manager and Black head coach, as well as that personal identity being one of the reasons Jerami Grant was interested in leaving a successful Denver Nuggets team to bet on himself as a featured option with the Pistons.
Do you replay what happened over and over with the bribe?
It’s not the story of my life, but it’s a part of my life. …
I tried to pen the story from a real perspective. One of the stories in [the book] is I was a junior in college [at Penn] and we were about to play Harvard one night, and as I’m walking off the floor for pregame shooting, someone comes up to me, asks if my father needs money. And I’m like, ‘What?’ He asked me again, ‘Jerome, does your dad need money?’ I’m asking, ‘What are you talking about?’ And they say, ‘Oh, he’s outside, in front of The Palestra asking people for change as they come into the gym.’ And so, he was so high, that he didn’t realize where he was at. And for me to be on campus at an Ivy League institution inside The Palestra, for him to kind of embarrass me like that was, that judgment I’ve placed on him, I vowed to hate him for the rest of my life.
So fast-forward 20-something years later, the Wharton School of Business undergraduate degree graduation is held inside The Palestra. And my oldest son is graduating and he wins a dean’s award at the Wharton graduation. He also wins the second-highest award of the senior class that year. He goes to Penn and he kills it. And then in that same building where so many people that share my name, because I played basketball there, people stood up and cheered for completely different reasons. And then my case breaks, so that same compassion and empathy or that unwillingness to extend forgiveness towards my own father, now I’m begging for it for my own son.
And so, the book, or this exercise in my case, kind of helped me talk about the hypocrisy that, I ain’t going to say we all carry, but I was carrying in terms of just that in itself.
What do you think about the chances for Black assistant coaches to get one of those coveted 30 head coaching jobs?
I’d be lying to you if I said it’s not something that I think about. Whether it be personally or whether it be just the overall state of the hiring practices. I think white or Black, there are a lot of good coaches out there. I’m blessed. I have a great job and I really don’t have anything to complain about. There are millions out there who would die to be in my position. But with that being said, I am aware of the things that plague the advancement of others in terms of them having opportunities to see if they could succeed or fail in certain positions.
I’m not that naive to think that there are some systemic things that plague this industry as well. And so, I champion for the best candidates. But I do believe that there are others out there that look like me, that have worked their tails off to put themselves in a position to be able to fight for one of those coveted positions.
If a Black student would ask you, should I go to an Ivy League school to play basketball, what would you tell them?
I wouldn’t hesitate. And I would say that, outside of who you’re going to marry, it’s probably the most important decision in your life. And my youngest son and I, we talk about it all the time in terms of, he thinks he’s going to be the first fifth grader ever to go straight to the NBA. But just in terms of what’s important, and I just wish more, especially those that look like me, would put themselves in a position to let that be the foundation that sustains them in life.
I’m a pro-Ivy League guy in terms of what those brands represent. Not only what they represent, but the network that you could be burst into on top of just those intellectual incubators, what they’re producing, how they’re going to sow into you in terms of just equip you to pretty much be able to do whatever it is you want to do in life. We get so caught up in just the whole athletic prowess, but it’s 0.000001% ever get an opportunity to play the game for a profession.