It’s time to hear Myron Piggie’s side of things…
An authentic viewpoint of a polarizing topic often goes ignored simply because it’s contrary to what usually saturates the news cycle. Opinions are formed based on repetitive information many times dismissive of facts respectful to those accused, and subsequently judged by the court of public opinion unjustly. The result is a mistrust of truth said and unsaid, and unfortunately a lazy perception becomes reality.
History in the aftermath becomes a lie for lack of context. In the case of Myron Piggie, his reality is a truth unheard because of commitments to his former AAU players while they were under his tutelage and also as they matured in their profession. As the players he coached near NBA retirement, Piggie is willing to talk publicly of what transpired in one of the biggest and first NCAA scandal involving the recruitment and athletic development of AAU aged athletes. What is missing most from Piggie’s story is an accurate view of his relationships with the players he coached and how those relationships were compromised due to envious greed and consummate hypocrisy during a critical period of athletic and personal maturity.
In a society eating its young and masking the true reasons for such as preserving the wholesomeness of both the young players and the sport, good men instrumental in the upbringing of athletes are unapologetically cut out and labeled as dark opportunists while boosters, college administrators, college coaches, shoe companies, etc., create yet another revenue stream for themselves and their families in every exploitive measure. As a result, an emotional void develops and players are left exposed unwillingly to a world of smiling men seeing them as a number entering and passing through a hypothetical turnstile doing nothing more than add zeroes to their existing bank accounts and build their sports legacies. The players subsequently become anonymous while the coaches are afforded lasting fame. Unfortunately, as time passes and athletic talent of those relevant are no longer serviceable, the athletes are the ones holding the proverbial copper spoon. A copper spoon used over and over until it rusts. The rusting spoon barely feeding their families while those of authority eat with silver simply because the rules dictate everyone but athletes are permitted to benefit financially before the athletic talent is professionally drafted.
Myron Piggie, working in Kansas City, Missouri, wanted to change this injustice, not for his best interests, but so the athletically talented kids of his community and beyond would ultimately benefit the most. Some of the top AAU talent in the late 90’s played for Piggie’s Children’s Mercy Hospital 76ers in the three and a half years he coached the team. Some of these athletes were reported to have taken thousands of dollars from Piggie — which Piggie says is patently false: “I never admitted giving anyone any money,” said Piggie by phone. “I pled guilty because of the gun charge. That is a story that has been reported wrong many times. No one ever got shoe boxes of money.”
Piggie, appearing on my radio show June 7th, responded to a question of why he’s speaking out now after so many years of silence: “The kids are adults now. I still have one or two guys that are about to retire. It was never about me. It was always about the kids. The story really needs to be told from A to Z. The real story needs to be told.”
How many stories are not told and shoved under the rug so that the livelihoods of many except the young athletes involved remain intact? Aren’t the kids the biggest commodity and deserve a true sense of protection more than anyone else involved? How did we get to the point where the athletes themselves do not stand to make a dime off the actual talent sports fans pay to see in person or patronize their local bars to watch on TV?
Many incidents involving the hypocrisy of the NCAA are changing the sports world’s view of the college sports infrastructure. Fans are seeing the exploitation of kids in full display and the NCAA is no longer cast as the pristine institution it once was. Or was it ever? The recent allegations of Rashad McCants, who helped the North Carolina Tarheels win the 2005 NCAA title, state that tutors wrote his papers while at UNC and he barely attended classes. McCants told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that counselors pointed him to Afro-American Studies Department classes that were actually no classes at all. Couple that damaging news with a recent antitrust suit headed by former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon and it’s not a stretch to say the landscape of college sports could be rocked forever. Further, when high profile coaches ink deals such as John Calipari’s seven year, $52 million dollar contract, the amateurism of college sports becomes a joke simply because of the many athletes who don’t have a realistic shot to cash in on their talent which plays a huge part in creating a lucrative market for coaches that seemingly has no ceiling.
It would be ludicrous to assert that all programs are dirty, yet realistically, how many Myron Piggies are out there? How many of his ilk have become the scapegoats for the many seedy transactions taking place so high profile institutions continue their successes in the one and done era?
College sports once was protected because of the billions it generates and now that sports fans are realizing athletic scholarships are not true compensation or a guarantee for a decent education, everyone is rightfully under scrutiny.
Piggie feels the reporting of the AAU scandal was wrong in every case: “Everybody wrote about this or wrote about that, and not one article is accurate. It’s easy to go and say that you can go to public record (and see) yeah, I was an ex-dope dealer; yeah, I was a street guy, but that don’t make me a bad person because of what I did as a young man. I stayed in the background because of the kids. It was always about the kids. It was never about me.”
Players under Piggie related to him because he had their best interests in mind. “Not one time have I ever been mad at my kids because these kids didn’t have anything to do with it. It was some selfish adults that were just jealous and wanted the power and they fed (upon) kids and that bothers me today. A few of those kids could have been NBA players and people sit up and say it was my fault but they really need to know who the crook really was.”
So who is the crook in all of this? As talented kids climb the athletic ladder, who should they trust? Should more concern exist for the relative support base players lean on that have a better sense of who they are in their early development, or the opportunistic strangers involved along the way hiding under the guise of amateurism looking to make large sums of money that enables their own kids to comfortably attend college?
There is good and there is inherent evil. There is inherent evil masked as a perception of good. When evil greed capitalizes the most off our nation’s talented young athletes, how can we expect those kids to not break the rules and become better men? How can we expect them to remain true to the system as one by one, people who say they have good intentions continue to use them as some sort of fully stocked ATM machine and smile in their faces while doing so? A blue chip recruit often has seen so many bad people scratching and clawing at their pants legs looking to turn a disingenuous relationship into a lucrative opportunity all the while shaking their fingers at kids telling them “don’t do as I do” or to rid themselves of the people that helped get them in a position to become a pro athlete simply because they have a rap sheet.
Our perception of the bad guy may look like Myron Piggie because of an assumed sordid past, but instead of focusing on the likes of him, it would be more rational to look for those dressed to the nines with faces of country club smiles and souls of insidious lies.