Timeout with Kermit... The Coach

By: Jeff Twiss

He was with the Green and White for only 32 games during the 1977-78 season, after being traded by the Los Angeles Lakers with Don Chaney and future considerations for Charlie Scott on December 12, 1977. He also played in 25 contests for the Lakers that year.

In the 32 games, long before it became popular and statistically noteworthy, he averaged a double-double...11.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

That was the type of player Kermit Washington was. A tough, athletic, hard working and smart basketball player.

The same can be applied to Washington today only now he is known as Kermit Washington - the coach.

The 10-year NBA veteran and former All-Star was named as an assistant coach for the Asheville Altitude of the NBA's National Basketball Development League recently. The announcement and hiring seems like a perfect fit as the NBDL is a league where players work hard and are motivated to take their game to the next level... the NBA, just like Washington did.

"I owned a restaurant, I worked in the business and it was something ridiculous, I'm telling you," chuckled Washington. "I learned a lot about owning a restaurant. I had also been doing a radio show back in Portland (Oregon)."

But for the last two years Washington has been deeply involved and committed with the Project Contact Africa program.

"We would have students who would go over to Kenya to work in the slums, either in the clinic that we built or in the orphanages that we supported in the slums there. I am happy and proud to report that it has been doing very well. Most of the students are from American University (Washington's alma mater) and the school of International Services is one of the top's in the nation," remarked Washington. "We have ten students over there now taking classes and working on their internships."

How did Project Contact develop?

"I had been going over to Africa ever since the Rwandan War. I went with a medical group over ten years ago, after donating some money and I just thought it was horrendous. So, I went over there and then I saw how really terribly bad it is. I mean, we don't even let, gosh, the worst animals in the world live like that... rats live like most of those people live there. I just said that I will keep coming and seeing what I can do. And, it got to the point where I did as much as I thought I could and it just grew and grew. We started taking doctors and nurses, volunteers taking medicine and the NBA Players Association has donated close to $50,000 worth of medicine to help supply the clinic."

So just how and why did Washington return to the NBA ranks?

"I had been working oversees for over a month and when I came home there was a message from Stu Jackson (NBA Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations) from David Stern (NBA Commissioner) asking would I be interested in coming down and working? I said that it was fine but I couldn't say yes right away because I had never heard of Asheville and I didn't know anything about the D League, but let me think about it. I knew I would love to get the opportunity to learn how to and to see what it takes to be an assistant coach in any league. I had been a coach in college and a head coach in high school but is it different when you're getting guys with personalities a little bit bigger than just in college and high school? I decided to do it, come to Asheville and I like it! It's fun! I like working with athletes and these are a good group of guys. I just hope that we can help them to become better."

He downplays his great scoring and rebounding accomplishments from his Celtics playing days stating, "No, no I was not a scorer. You know what, the 'stars' were: Havlicek, Dave Cowens, JoJo White - all of those guys. Dave Bing was on that team. The most memorable thing in my whole career was Havlicek's final game. I really enjoyed that... that was a wonderful game to be a part of."

"I really enjoyed my stay in Boston. I knew Red Auerbach since I was 17 years old. I liked the fact that Red Auerbach really called the shots. What he said, went. And, I liked being part of a team that had three Hall of Famers on it. That was pretty special."

Now we know Kermit Washington is pretty special as well.

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