VOL. 116 | NO. 208 | Friday, October 25, 2002
By ANDREW BELL
The Daily News
As far as Richard Cohee is concerned, much more rewarding
than clutching a rebound, swishing a last-second jumper or talking hoops with
Michael Jordan is a grin spreading across a childs face.
The Memphis Grizzlies community investment senior director
first dribbled a basketball as a 12-year-old in Regina, Saskatchewan, while
dreaming of becoming the next Earvin Magic Johnson.
He didnt stop dribbling until an ankle injury in college
briefly sidelined him.
Ostensibly, it could have been the most useful injury anyone
Unable to play and bored, I started up a series of
basketball camps, then coaching, he said. From the very first day of camp, I
loved helping others and knew it was what I wanted to do.
After working in programs for at-risk youth with the British
Columbia Ministry of the Attorney Generals office, Cohee was hired by the
Grizzlies five years ago when the franchise entered the NBA.
When the Grizzlies announced relocation to the Bluff City in
2001, Cohee and his wife, Tricia, were ambivalent.
He was excited about the move hes lived on five
continents playing professional basketball and its new possibilities; yet, it
was an emotional struggle to cut ties with the Vancouver community.
He described Memphis as unique and noted the significant
difference between a Canadian population more familiar with hockey terminology
and a community where basketball dictionaries are unnecessary.
(In Vancouver) we had to educate the public about the game
of basketball, about the rules, before we could make an impact into the
community. It took time. But here we are dealing with a community thats more
sophisticated about basketball, he said. From the start, the game takes a
backseat to philanthropic efforts.
The Grizzlies community investment department is involved
in multiple efforts to help meet local needs. No three projects are more dear
to Cohee than the Grizzlies association with St. Jude Childrens Research
Hospital; its partnership with Memphis Athletic Ministries, which is jointly
building a multi-million dollar youth soccer/basketball complex in Whitehaven;
and its Reading to Achieve book advocacy programs for school children.
Cohee said personally, he gets more joy in brightening a
sick childs day than rubbing elbows with the most popular NBA players. In
fact, it surpasses a close friendship with the most recognized hoops player in
the world, Michael Jordan.
One time in Vancouver I appeared on television with Michael
Jordan. The next day, I got about 300 phone calls from people asking how great
it must be to know him, Cohee said. I tell people all the time that its
great to know players, but honestly, the greater pleasure is walking into a
school or a hospital and seeing a kids face light up.
For a moment, that touches you greater than meeting 300 of
the best players in the world. The NBA is not that important when you see
struggles some children have it puts everything in perspective.
Cohee spent eight years playing professionally all over the
world. He said his greatest on-court achievement occurred when he had chosen to
hang up his sneakers.
After I had retired from playing and was working with the
Grizzlies, I was asked to try out, he said. As a player, to get a shot in
front of NBA scouts, to get fully evaluated, is a high.
The Cohees are the parents of an 8-month-old son, Jaxon.
Richard said Memphis has made them feel very welcomed and has fully lived up to
its reputation for Southern hospitality.
I have a dream job, he said. I get to work in the NBA,
but there is no pressure to win games or have business success.
I come to work to do good things, to be philanthropic, plus
I get an insight to the players.
The Grizzlies next charitable event its second tip-off
luncheon benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis happens at
11 a.m. today at the Peabody hotel. Call 543-3510 for information.