You can never accuse Jalen Rose of being boring. After 13 years in the NBA, Rose segued almost effortlessly into his second career as an ESPN sports analyst, putting his infamous post-game quotes to good use. Rose has now added philanthropist and educator to his stellar resume with the creation of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, an open enrollment public charter school in his hometown of Detroit. Adding honey to the educational pot, the Jeep Brand has partnered with Rose to offer $100,000 college scholarships to the first graduating class.
The Urban Daily chatted with Rose about his commitment to educating today’s youth, the pitfalls of instant fame and celebrity and the aftermath of the “Fab Five” controversy with fellow ball player Grant Hill.
TUD: What inspired you to create the leadership academy?
Jalen Rose: By being exposed to what education could really do for your life. Being a McDonald’s All American, then being part of the Fab Five and then making it to the NBA. What people don’t know is that in high school I was an honor roll student and in college I made the dean’s list. Education was always important to me and now that the auto fortunes in my hometown have changed, those jobs aren’t there. So it’s very important for our young men and women to be educated.
A recent survey stated that high school graduation rates in Detroit have improved over the last couple of years. What do you think is accounting for that?
Awareness of students and families getting in gear and realizing how important education is. Having quality schools. I mean what do you do when you live in a district with poor performing schools? You have to send your kids there, and you’re just setting them up for redundant failure. I’m a tax paying citizen—if I don’t want to send my child to that school district, I should have the option not send them there.
You were raised in a single parent home. How did your mother keep you on the straight and narrow growing up?
The term “it takes a village to raise a child” applies to me. My mother worked as a key puncher at Chrysler and as a young mischievous child I knew my mom would be home by 5pm so I had time to do whatever I wanted to do. She did a tremendous job in instilling a strong work ethic in me. I also had two older brothers and an older sister, my uncle, my coach really took an interest in me. I did the right thing, not that I was perfect.
How important was your college education when you transitioned from playing basketball to sports broadcasting?
It was very important because I’m one of few people who actually has a career in what I majored in college. I majored in Mass Communications. That’s what I do everyday, radio and TV. Also running the charter school, so education is the foundation of everything.
Today’s younger generation are constantly bombarded “instant” celebrity i.e. reality stars. How do we encourage our children to value a college education?
That’s a generational thing. We live in what I call “the microwave generation” where reality shows, socialites, all of that has overtaken “the oven generation”–it takes a little longer to cook but it tastes better. What you’re describing is a sacrifice over years—whether you’re a student or athlete, these things take a long time. If you make poor decisions in those formative years, the sex, violence, drugs you’re not putting yourself in a position to be successful. That’s a fact.
What are your thoughts on teams drafting players right out of high school?
There’s hypocrisy happening on so many levels. The majority of the players are minorities. At 18, I’m allowed to serve in the military or get drafted, or even start my own business. So I should also be allowed to enter the NBA draft. Some of the best players in the league, Kobe Bryant, Durant, Garnett, were drafted right out of high school.
Last month, Knicks player J.R. Smith tweeted a rather provocative picture of his girlfriend and was fined $25,000 by the NBA. Did the punishment fit the crime?
I understand why he got fined because he’s an NBA employee and the league wanted to send a message to J.R. Smith that he crossed the line. Now players will think twice before sending certain thing over Twitter.
Last year you got some heat from comments you made in the “Fab Five” documentary when you called the Duke University basketball team a bunch of “Uncle Toms.” In response Grant Hill wrote an op-ed for the NY Times addressing the issue. Did you read the op-ed? What did you think?
The op-ed was eloquently done. I have a lot of respect for Grant. We spoke after the piece was published. Unfortunately it was taken out of context by the media, because the last time I checked, Grant and I are both black. So to make it out to be racial, it was more about socio-economic status. I was an ignorant high school student when I said those things. I mean I’m a parent now. My kids are being brought up the way Grant Hill was. I’m running a charter school so the students can be more like Grant.