Column: Why LaVar Ball and his mouth need to be stopped

In this March 4, 2017, file photo, UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, right, shakes hands with his father LaVar following an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Los Angeles. UCLA won 77-68. (Mark J. Terrill, File/AP)

Crazy basketball parent LaVar Ball has been in the news for the last few months or so, telling the world about how his sons will make millions, even a billion dollars in a shoe deal. For some time, it was all in good fun and kind of humorous. But now, Mr. Ball and his Donald Trump-like mouth need to be stopped.

I’ll admit it, I enjoyed LaVar Ball’s relentless antics for a while, too. He said some crazy things that people love to hear, and the sports media ate it up. There’s no way in hell Ball could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one in his prime, nor any other professional. He didn’t even make it to the pros himself, and we can see why in a video from The Hoops Column, showing Ball playing at Neighborhood Center.

To some degree, however, I do respect what he was doing for his sons, Lonzo, LiAngelo and Lamelo. Building their own brand and maximizing the profits they’d get when all three went pro was great advertising and put the spotlight on the sons, who only continued to perform on the court at UCLA and Chino Hills High School, respectively. He was just a dad who was really proud of his sons and loved to talk about it on the national stage. Maybe a little bit too much, but he hadn’t crossed any serious lines.

Not until now, anyway.

Mr. Ball officially crossed a serious line the other day when his comments about first-year Chino Hills head coach Stephan Gilling were released and became viral. Gilling led the basketball team to a 30-3 record, falling short of a title after an undefeated title-winning season the year prior. Much of the blame could have been attributed to the two Ball sons who were ice-cold shooting in an overtime loss, going a combined 17-65.

Reportedly, Gilling cussed them out after the game, which may have been harsh but could be used as a teaching lesson to take smarter shots. The Ball patriarch, who has had a history of being overzealous and storming into the locker room in the past, reacted by slandering Gilling.

“So I told my boys to do an acting job. Nod your head when (Gilling) talks, but when you’re on the court, do what I tell you,” the eldest Ball said. “If he takes them out, I’ll stand up and tell them to stay in.”

If LaVar Ball had just swallowed his and his sons’ pride, and let the coach do his job, I might not have had an issue with him. But, he committed the cardinal sin in parenting elite athletes. You cannot, absolutely must not, overrule the coach if you’re a parent. I love the enthusiasm, but the moment Ball acted as though he was coach, he instantly took all the blame away from his still developing sons. The blame was shifted from his sons, who needed to act as better teammates and learn to better themselves as players, and onto coach Gilling.

LaVar Ball is exactly the type of parent that UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma has warned about in interviews. By undermining Gilling, LaVar has gifted his sons with the power to get away with mistakes when they should be taught the fundamentals and learn to play as better teammates, which will hurt them as they go on to UCLA and, likely, the pros. How will they learn when their dad is in the way? At this point, the three Ball sons have probably embraced “the Ball way,” which will stick with them for as long as their father’s name comes up in the same sentence as theirs.

"I root for the kid because I think he’s a hell of a player, and I wouldn’t want to be in his situation,” said Auriemma on Lonzo and his brothers. “I mean, I would next year when he signs, I’d want to be in his situation, but I wouldn’t want to be that guy that every time he meets somebody the first thing they talk about is his father. I wouldn’t want to be that guy, but that’s just me.”

It is unfortunate to see, really. They have such an enthusiastic and proud father who wants them to be incredibly successful (and wealthy). He was doing all the right things in terms of branding. But undermining coaches is about five steps too far. So until Mr. Ball shuts his mouth and stops exerting his influence on coaches by talking to sports media, the first “Ball” that will show up on the Internet is LaVar.


Chris Hanna is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu. He tweets @realchrishanna.