Donald Wayne: Scottie Pippen is making Hamburg proud
Hamburg High School basketball coach Donald Wayne didn’t know it at that time, but a senior point guard of his in 1983 was about to change the way he thought about coaching.
The player’s name was Scottie Pippen and he was in his third season of playing for Wayne. Pippen had improved significantly since first taking the floor under Wayne’s direction as a sophomore. As a senior, he made the all-district team and led his team to the state tournament. But he didn’t seem to have what it took to play at the next level, or at least that was how most local colleges felt.
At some point that season, the two had a player-coach conversation that Wayne recalled this week. He describes it as a moment he will never forget from his nearly 30 years of coaching.
“If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that when a kid tells you he wants to play in the NBA, you don’t laugh at him,” said Wayne. “That’s something Scottie told me when he was in high school. That helped me understand it’s good for these kids to dream and believe. Anything can happen when you put your work in and do what you’re supposed to do—it’s just a matter of who you are, where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.”
The youngest of 12 children, Pippen came to Wayne as a very undersized player. But, given he was only 15 years or so of age at the time, there was ample opportunity to address that.
“He was barely 6-2 and if his socks were wet, he might have weighed 140 pounds,” said Wayne of meeting him as a 10th grader.
While Wayne couldn’t control Pippen’s height, he did see an opportunity to add some muscle to his lanky frame.
“The weakest part of his game was his strength,” said Wayne, who also coached a few of Pippen’s older brothers. “If you played for me, you had to work with the weights. He didn’t like it at first, but not too many kids did at that time. If the kids wanted to get on the floor, they had to lift weights. Scottie did and got stronger. Eventually, he turned out to be a pretty good point guard.”
Wayne liked what he saw in Pippen and decided to try and help him play at the collegiate level. Having played himself at Henderson State, located just over an hour to the southwest of Little Rock, he put a call into his college coach, Don Dyer, who by then had moved on to coach at Central Arkansas.
“He had seen some of our teams from Hamburg play before, so he knew I wouldn’t call him up just for the sake of trying to help a kid play,” Wayne said of reaching out to Dyer. “Scottie got to a point in high school where he was very determined to play college ball. But he wasn’t very flashy at that time and the other nearby colleges weren’t interested in him.”
After meeting with Pippen and his older brother, Billy, one afternoon in the spring of 1983, Dyer decided to allow Pippen to walk on that fall and serve as the team manager with an opportunity to earn playing time, and possibly, an eventual scholarship.
“Having played point guard myself in college, I saw some traits in him that made me believe he could play at that level,” said Wayne. “Scottie could handle the ball and shoot it as well. He ran our offense very well and didn’t take bad shots. He was a pretty decent sized guard for back then in high school, but had he grown earlier, I think he may have gotten some more attention.”
As Wayne alluded, Pippen grew a remarkable six inches from his freshman to sophomore year in Conway and quickly began to develop as a player. He also added some much needed bulk, just as Wayne had recommended.
“I hope I had a little bit of an impact on him, but I don’t know,” said Wayne. “He and I talked about the other day; he’s just a blessed person. He put in the time and worked hard to get where he’s at right now.”
Wayne and Pippen have stayed in contact over the years, with Wayne among Pippen’s distinguished guests at the United Center when the Bulls retired Pippen’s No. 33 in December 2005. He was also on the Central Arkansas campus in January of this year when his collegiate jersey was sent to the rafters.
On Friday, when Pippen and the Class of 2010 are enshrined into basketball’s Hall of Fame, he’ll be there as well.
“I’m just proud I had the opportunity to coach him,” said Wayne. “Hopefully other kids who come through Hamburg can see through Scottie that if you work hard and follow your dreams, anything can happen. It’s going to feel good to see him go into the Hall of Fame because it’s such a big honor. I know how much Hamburg is proud of him. Everyone that knows him and is around him should be. It’s hard to imagine him having a better career.”