Anthony Long has coached more than his fair share of tremendous ballplayers during his time as the head coach of boys basketball at Dr. Phillips.
Long, who has never won fewer than 20 games per season during his 12 years with the program (part of a larger streak for the program of 21 consecutive seasons with 20-plus wins), has seen the likes of Chris Warren, Jason Rich and, most recently, RaShawn “Pookie” Powell come through his program.
Powell is currently a sophomore at the University of Memphis, Rich (who starred collegiately at Florida State) is playing professionally in France, and Warren (who played his college ball at Ole Miss) is playing professionally in Turkey.
And although all of those careers, at their varying stages, are impressive, there is another DP alum who has Long even prouder than usual — Shane Larkin, who, at times, has been the starting point guard for the New York Knicks.
“I just couldn’t be prouder,” Long said. “I’m just bursting with pride when I watch him. The starting point guard for the New York Knicks — I mean, what else needs to be said?”
Larkin made his way from the Dallas Mavericks to the Knicks by way of a trade during the offseason. Expected to be more of a bench player, Larkin got an opportunity to show what he can do early in the season due to an injury to Jose Calderon.
Since then, Larkin, the son of baseball great Barry Larkin, has shown he is more than a capable NBA player. He is averaging 23 minutes per game, 5.6 points per game and 2.3 assists per game. A recent headline in the New York Post read “The improbable rise and growth of Shane Larkin.”
Improbable to many, sure, but it’s not altogether surprising to Long.
Long, who ordered NBA League Pass this season so he can watch all of Larkin’s games, tweets enthusiastically about the former Panther’s achievements from the program’s official Twitter account, @DP_Boys_Hoops.
When asked what Larkin is doing better this season from a season ago during his time in Dallas, Long suggests his former star, who played collegiately at Miami, is simply maturing as an NBA player.
“He’s not turning the ball over,” Long said. “He has very, very few turnovers, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is great. He’s shooting better — all of his statistics are better this year to his first year in the NBA.”
Long has plenty to be excited about with regard to his current roster, too. Dr. Phillips is off to a 4-2 start to the season, with its two losses coming to two well-regarded programs in Windermere Prep and Providence (Jacksonville).
The Panthers have athleticism, length, a mix of youthful and experienced players and depth off the bench — a lethal combination that has the team considered among the best in Central Florida.
So, although the veteran coach is focused on the challenge at hand of getting his program back to Lakeland, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to find Long taking a break from watching film of opponents to check in on the New York Knicks and the team’s familiar face in blue and orange.
For more commentary and insights, follow Steven Ryzewski on Twitter, @StevenR_WOTO.