Love & basketball: Family first for Moton

Mar. 19, 2014 @ 12:19 AM

Not long after N.C. Central clinched the regular-season Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, NCCU coach LeVelle Moton started looking around McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium.

He wasn’t trying to figure out how to rearrange the championship banners to make space for the new one, although he’d been talking for the longest time about needing to win a big one and adding to the gym’s wall of fame that includes his No. 15 jersey.

NCCU fans stormed the court that night when the Eagles locked up the league title with a win over Savannah State.

But Moton wasn’t scanning the gym because he thought a fan who was real happy might tackle him:

“Where’s my child?” Moton asked. “Where’s my child?”

This past Saturday after NCCU got into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history by winning the MEAC Tournament, there was Moton gazing around Norfolk (Va.) Scope Arena.

“Where’s my wife?” Moton asked.

It’s family first for this guy.

And if teams really do take on the personalities of their coaches, then the cohesiveness that NCCU’s opponents have noticed about the Eagles is easily explained.

“I don’t really know exactly what they do over there to get that bond the way it is, but you can tell those guys like playing with each other, and they’ll do anything,” Norfolk State coach Robert Jones said. “They’re really brothers on the court.”

Moton has spent past summers getting in a some guru time, hanging out with the likes of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

But that sort of thing requires even more precious minutes away from home. Coaches are away from their families enough without anything extra added to their schedules.

So Moton decided that he’d stay home this past offseason. Now, he did get in a little guru time, but Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd had his team practicing at Duke, allowing Moton to go home each night and snuggle with his babies, Brooke and LeVelle Jr., and cuddle with his wife, Bridget.

“I’ve got a tremendous wife,” Moton said.

Moton would tell you that he’s got a tremendous life, and coaching NCCU is a big part of that, but everything starts with his family.

“We take our jobs so seriously that we forget who we are,” Moton said.

That’s why it’s bring-your-kids-to-work day every day at NCCU’s practices. Moton said he promotes a family atmosphere at his workplace, so NCCU’s assistant coaches know that they can bring their children to the gym any day. Brooke and LeVelle Jr. show up and run around while Daddy blows his whistle.

Daddy’s whistle might have an extra shrill to it this week. He’s got to get the Eagles, a No. 14 seed, ready to play No. 3 Iowa State in the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Friday (9:50 p.m., TNT).

Moton said he is first a husband, because his wife is going to be around long after MEAC championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. The game of basketball, perhaps, could pass him by, but Bridget Moton isn’t going anywhere — she’s a keeper, the coach said.

Most folks by now have heard that Moton was crying after NCCU won the MEAC Tournament because he saw his daughter form a heart symbol with her little fingers, a ritual they share at games.

When Moton’s tears dried, it was time to get down in honor of the Big Dance, and there was his baby boy on the court near where the net-cutting ceremony was happening. LeVelle Jr. already has some flash about him. The kid might turn out to be a nice point guard someday.