Metta World Peace, the NBA All-Star and member of the 2010 Lakers team that won the championship, is now an assistant basketball coach for Palisades Charter High School. He’s been working with the girls’ team since June, but Torino Johnson, the head coach, says they’ve been talking about him joining the staff ever since World Peace’s daughter Sadie was playing for the team four years ago. He has started helping out on his son’s team as well.
It would be an amazing opportunity for anyone to be coached by the NBA star, but the fact that he’s taking his expertise to high school kids, and not only to high school kids but to high school girls, is pretty phenomenal. Women’s athletics don’t get a lot of respect, so knowing that an NBA champion takes girls’ basketball seriously enough to sign on to coach must be a heady confidence boost for the players.
When a reporter from TMZ Sports recently asked World Peace what it’s like coaching a girls’ high school basketball team, he replied, “They do a great job and they’re smart—smarter than the boys.” He was also very modest when the reporter pointed out it must be surreal for the girls to be coached by the former Lakers star. “Everybody had a coach,” World Peace said. “Everybody needs some type of coach on their way to pro or college. And I played for professional basketball players who coached. You know, Phil Jackson was a basketball player and he coached us, and that was nice.”
There was a time when few people would have called World Peace a good role model. Back when the Queensbridge projects native went by Ron Artest, he made headlines for his anger issues, like the infamous 2004 “Malice at the Palace” brawl between players and fans. But he started going to counseling and changed his name to the Buddhist-inspired Metta World Peace, and since then he’s been an outspoken advocate for mental health care. He thanked his psychiatrist after winning the 2010 NBA championship and even auctioned off his championship ring to raise money for mental health. He was already a favorite of ours, but hearing about his new coaching gig makes him even more of a hero.