SEC Basketball

What Mizzou Assistant Coach Michael Porter Sr. is All About – Family Values and Humility

At this point, we’re all aware of LaVar Ball. He makes outlandish guarantees (how’d that 2017 UCLA national championship work out, buddy?) to go along with outlandish demands. Among his demands is the asking price for the shoe deal he believes his sons deserve. Or is it the asking price he believes he deserves?

[Merenbloom: LaVar Ball Lives Through His Protege Son Lonzo Ball]

Ball does have a small group of supporters. The narrative goes something like this – LaVar is a proud dad who wants nothing but the best for his sons. What dad wouldn’t and shouldn’t act like LaVar as a child’s dreams are being supported?

It’s now time for a comparison of fathers. Let’s discuss Missouri assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. and his son Michael Porter Jr.

Porter Jr. is the No. 1 ranked recruit in the 2017 class. He had originally committed to play for Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies. And then Romar was fired. Porter Jr. reopened his recruitment and he’s now headed to Missouri.

And for this, Porter Sr. is considered to be worse than Ball. How did we get to this point? Glad you asked.

Porter Sr. is married to Lisa Becker. That is important because that makes Robin Pingeton Porter Sr.’s sister-in-law. Pingeton is the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Missouri.

Pingeton had hired Porter Sr. to be one of her Director of Basketball Operations and eventually promoted him to assistant coach. He had played college ball, toured with Athletes In Action, and coached at the AAU level. So this wasn’t like hiring some guy off the street. And, sure, it helped that Pingeton is Porter Sr.’s sister-in-law. But none-the-less, Porter Sr. was qualified to be an assistant.

Porter Sr. spent six seasons at Missouri before accepting a job with Romar at Washington. Make no mistake, Romar’s hiring of Porter Sr. was about much more than Porter Jr.

Romar and Porter Sr. go a long way back. Romar was a player-coach on the Athletes In Action team that Porter Sr. had played on in the early 1990s. Porter Sr. credits Romar for turning his life around. In short, Romar was the mentor who influenced Porter Sr. to grow up and become an adult.

“I mean, I was at a crossroads, and they took me in and let me live with them,” Porter said. “I saw a stable family. I saw a man who was committed to his family, and those were just examples that I needed to see up close and personal at that point in my life.”

Asked to expand upon that crossroads, Porter replied: “Just the kind of guy I was. Lorenzo was one of the first guys to tell me the truth about myself. ‘Porter, man, you’ve always got an excuse for why you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. You’ve always got an excuse for why you’re late.’ Stuff like that.

Family. Responsibility. Accountability. Those are the things that Porter Sr. learned to value and to embrace while living with the Romar’s.
During his time spent with Romar, Porter Sr. expressed a desire to be a coach. Romar told him to go out and gain some experience and he would consider hiring Porter Sr. after he had built a coaching resume. True to form, Porter Sr. acted on Romar’s advice. And true to form, when the opportunity presented itself and the timing was right for all parties, Romar offered Porter Sr. a job as one of his assistants and Porter Sr. accepted the offer.
Porter Sr. just as easily could have transitioned from Pingeton’s bench to Kim Anderson’s bench. It’s all based on rumors and speculation, but Anderson either declined to offer Porter Sr. an opportunity to coach on the men’s side or Porter Sr. wanted nothing to do with coaching for Anderson. Either way, Porter Sr. had his opportunity and off to Washington he went.
Porter Sr. has two daughters who play for their aunt at Missouri; Bri and Cierra. The family also had spent six years in Columbia. With the family roots that had been established, Columbia was home. So when Porter Jr. committed to Missouri by saying, “I’m coming home,” he was being sincere. Not only was he being sincere, the entire family was being sincere.
Yes, it’s true, Porter Jr. wouldn’t be headed to Missouri if his father wouldn’t have been hired by Cuonzo Martin. But let’s be honest. Recruiting is like sales. It’s about relationships and who you know. That doesn’t mean rules were broken or that Porter Sr. is “getting rich” off of his son. Porter Sr. is chasing his dream just as Porter Jr. and the rest of the Porters are chasing their dreams. It’s important to draw the distinction that each member of this family have their own dreams that are independent of each other.
Ball has groomed his kids to be basketball players since before they were born. He’s not only supported them but he’s branded his kids along with the entire family. That branding, which he intends to turn into $1 billion, is on the backs of his children. Ball’s intent is to become a billionaire off of his kid’s talent.
Now compare Ball’s comments to Porter Sr’s comments.

“I tell my kids all the time, I couldn’t care less if they played basketball, and I mean that from my heart,” Michael Sr. said. “I love that they play, because Lisa and I played and we love this game, but we are way more concerned about the people they become than being great basketball players.

“We talk a lot about, in your own mind, understanding there’s a distinction. Basketball’s what you do. It’s not who you are. Who you are is a human being. Love people, and treat them incredibly well. Those are the things that we value.”

Ball values $1 billion shoe deals. Ball has always defined his children by what they do; playing basketball. The Porters, on the other hand, have taught their children that there’s a distinction between what they do and who they are. Family values don’t come with a balance sheet or profit margin. At least not for the Porters.

I would also argue that the family values that the Porters have instilled in their children include humility.

Porter Sr. played college basketball but wasn’t a superstar. He went on to play for Athletes In Action and then called it a career as far as playing was concerned. He never created his own myth. He never claimed to be able to beat Michael Jordan one-one-on. Instead of inflating his own ego, Porter Sr. accepted his reality and set out to figure out his place in the world.

He wanted to coach so he volunteered with Romar back in the early 1990s and eventually earned spots coaching on the AAU circuit as well as Pingeton’s coaching staff. Porter Sr. even spent time as a Christian hip-hop artist touring under the name, Rahlo. Humility. Porter Sr. has always accepted the reality of his situation and made the most of it.

When critics of Porter Sr. claim he’s worse than Ball and that Porter Sr. is the father who is truly getting rich off of his superstar child, I can’t help but jump to his defense. It’s difficult to believe that Porter Sr. is living vicariously through his kids after examining his life. Porter Sr. has never been a person who chased the spotlight. He’s a person who has chased happiness through strong family values and humility.

No. Porter Sr. is nothing like Ball.

E-mail Seth at seth [dot] merenbloom [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Seth is the Managing Editor of Campus Pressbox.