NCCU's Moton says worst times are best times
A groundbreaking Division-I NCAA Tournament appearance notwithstanding, N.C. Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton the other day was like most parents who've been registering kids for the upcoming school year.
There Moton was filling out the requisite forms, including one for free-and-reduced lunch that he turned in to the receptionist where his daughter will start kindergarten.
That receptionist looked at him sideways.
The man makes $250,000 a year.
“I was so used to applying for free lunch that I filled it out,” Moton said. “It was so natural for me to do that, because that's the DNA, that's the pedigree of our family. We qualified for free lunch.”
In “The Worst Times Are the Best Times,” Moton recounted a love story with an unhappy ending. It had to do with the free-lunch ticket Moton used in high school. Moton said that voucher was enough to cause his first true love to kick him to the curb.
Moton still has that lunch ticket.
“Worst Times-Best Times,” co-authored by Edward G. Robinson III, is a collection of some of the pivotal moments in Moton's life, stories that make for good pre-game speeches. The coach insisted there are more where those came from.
“I'm 40, man,” Moton said. “I've experienced a lot in life, and those were just the ones we deemed more relative for that book.
“In actuality, I could probably write 30 books.”
That would be therapeutically painful, though, Moton said.
“Writing a book, you have to go back and visit those demons, man. It's a tough thing,” Moton said. “It's never easy dealing with your father not being there, because that just strikes a chord every time. I don't care how old you are, how much you've endured, that just stings. That pain is never going anywhere.”
Moton spent part of his growing-up years in public housing in a rough area in Massachusetts called Roxbury, where his neighbors included the guys who became the New Edition singing group. There's a chapter in the book about that and how the group inspired Moton and gave him a reason to dream.
The respect is mutual.
In March, during halftime of NCCU's first time in the Big Dance, Michael Bivins from New Edition called Moton's cellphone and left a message telling the coach what adjustments he needed to make against Iowa State. Of course, Moton was preoccupied and didn't get the message until after the game. But the point, Moton said, is that Bivins, Ralph Tresvant and the other guys from New Edition had flipped the script and become his fans.
“I always wanted to be Ralph Tresvant,” Moton said. “And now knowing that Ralph Tresvant was inspired and is inspired to continue to do what he does because he saw me do what I did, that's neat,” Moton said.
“Worst Times-Best Times” is not a basketball book, Moton said. Ideally, it will provide a measure of motivation toward restoring what's wrong in this country, he said. The killing of unarmed, young, black man Michael Brown by a Missouri police officer comes to mind, Moton said.
Some of the proceeds from the sale of Moton's book will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The book is scheduled for a Sept. 2 release and will be available at theworsttimesarethebesttimes.com.
If Alex Haley hadn't used “Roots” as the title for his seminal work, it would have been just the thing for this piece produced by Moton, a man who's made moves yet hasn't forgotten where he came from, as evidenced by the application he filled out to get a lunch ticket for his kid.
“I'm from that community, and I'm never going to forget that,” Moton said.