Antoine Walker made headlines last week by declaring on Twitter that he was interested in coaching the Celtics, and that declaration has turned into a desire to return to the NBA in any capacity. Walker is not delusional. He understands that no NBA team, including the Celtics, is likely to offer even an interview for a head coaching job because of his checkered past.
He will have to earn his way back into the good graces of team executives, perhaps by starting at the bottom: a scouting job, work in the Development League, or even overseas. Walker will have to prove he can stay away from the financial perils of his past and show diligence to gain a good reputation. Still, Walker says he misses playing as he tries to adjust to retirement. No NBA teams were interested after his stint in the NBADL.
“It’s been difficult for me, I feel like I didn’t leave the game on my own merit,” he said. “Any time you feel good about yourself is when you leave the game on your own merit. I’m sure Jason Kidd was happy he was able to leave the game on his own merit. He played so many years. I’m more upset about that. I want to play but I think my time has come and passed, and it’s time to do something else. It was tough at the beginning. I went down and tried the Development League. I played well enough I felt in the D-League to get back and it didn’t happen for whatever reason. I didn’t want to beat myself up over it. It was just unfortunate. I do think about that sometimes, that I can still play. It can get disappointing at times. I have grown past that and it’s getting much easier now. I can sit down and be a fan and enjoy the game.”
Walker has been hampered by financial troubles since his NBA career ended in 2008, blowing all of the estimated $108 million he earned. After Las Vegas casinos began pursuing him to pay for markers, some totaling nearly $1 million, he filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and has reached a settlement with his creditors.
He also appeared on the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary entitled “Broke,” chronicling stories of athletes who have blown fortunes with excessive spending and bad investments.
“I think my situation was unfortunate — it was bad investments, bad judgment,” Walker said. “The economy is so bad and the way things are, and the 9-to-5 person sometimes doesn’t understand things like that. A lot of people are not as sympathetic to your situation as other people. The biggest thing for me is I am going to try to work that negative into a positive. I am going to work with the league to help these young guys out.”
Likely the toughest part for Walker making the transition to being an NBA coach or scout is the interview process, having to explain his mistakes to skeptical executives who may believe he is just trying to earn a better-than-decent paycheck. Walker said his passion for basketball is brimming.
“I think sometimes we get to know people through the media,” Walker said. “We really don’t sit down and get to know a person. I think more face-to-face contact and bringing a guy in and really understanding whatever situation I went through. Sometimes we just know people through the social media and not really get to know the person, and sometimes you have to take a chance. You take a chance on these veteran coaches and it doesn’t work, so why not give a young guy an opportunity to see if he can do well.”
Walker said he is willing to start by preparing a résumé and e-mailing general managers throughout the league, looking for an opportunity to work. He attended the combine last month in Chicago to increase his visibility.
“I am going to keep plugging away,” he said. “If I have to go the traditional route, I will go the traditional route. It’s about me being proactive. It’s not about me sitting and waiting for anybody to do it for me. I eventually have to earn a living, so the [detractors] don’t really bother me. I understand where the [negativity] comes from, and I’m too tough-skinned for that.”
After keeping a low profile during his financial issues, Walker has emerged from the shadows. He attended a Celtics game for the first time in years last spring and he has opened up about his mistakes and experiences. To earn money, Walker said he’s signing autographs at memorabilia shows, among other appearances.
“I didn’t die, I’m alive; I went through some financial troubles,” he said. “I’m sure I’m one of a million people who go through that. It’s about the type of person you become from it. We have to learn from our mistakes, and if I make a significant amount of money again, I know what to do with it. I’m happy to talk about it. I want to be a positive role model for a lot of young guys in the league. My phone number is open for guys who may want some advice and maybe going through some things and make them go the right way.”