Ex-high school coach offers support to Collins
APR 29, 2013 11:50a ET
Now, he's a trailblazer.
“I’m black,” Collins announced in a Sports Illustrated article posted on Monday. “And I’m gay.”
That announcement by the 12-year NBA veteran is the first of its kind. Collins, a Los Angeles native, is the first active player in a major American team sport to come out as openly gay.
“I’m different,” Collins told the magazine.
Different doesn’t always mean bad, and there has been plenty of support of Collins' announcement. NBA Commissioner David Stern, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, and Bradley Beal, Collins’ teammate in Washington last season, have all expressed their support for the 7-footer.
In the world of politics, U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy, a former roommate of Collins at Stanford, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, was a classmate of Collins at Stanford, too, voiced their support as well.
That support extends inside the walls of Harvard Westlake High School where Collins and his twin brother, Jarron, were McDonald’s All Americans before heading to Stanford.
Still, that’s not to say Collins’ announcement was expected.
“I was as surprised as anyone by the announcement,” said Harvard-Westlake coach Greg Hilliard, who coached the Collins twins. “It was never something that we thought about or were concerned about or cared about for that matter.”
Collins and his twin brother maintain a strong relationship with Hilliard and Harvard Westlake. They return to their alma mater each summer to work a basketball camp for Hilliard.
“I’m assuming it was really tough for him,” said Gary Garrett, the Harvard Westlake freshman coach, who also runs the camp with Collins during the summer. “There’s a time, a couple of years ago, that he was going to get married. Obviously, it didn’t go through but maybe this was him (battling with being gay).
“I’m sure he’s been struggling with this for a while.”
Hilliard said he thinks it’s great that Collins is the first active athlete to be openly gay and believes his former player will be a great spokesman on the topic.
“He’ll be able to articulate some of the things he went through and the trials and tribulations to get to this point,” Hilliard said. “He’s just one of the greatest kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching and still consider him a great friend.”
One of the major concerns about openly gay athletes is how they would be treated in the locker room. And while there’s still time for that to be determined, Hilliard says he is in no way surprised by the outpouring of support for Collins.
“He’s so well connected,” Hilliard said. “He was roommates with Joe Kennedy. He was good friends with Chelsea Clinton at Stanford. All these people are his friends and supportive. He knows that when he eventually came to the decision that there would be a lot of very powerful, supportive people in his corner but it takes time (to come out). I have no idea what that struggle is like.”
+ SHOW COMMENTS +