Q+A: Maxwell ‘Bingo’ Cole
The legendary streetball coach dissects his former pupils, one by one.
SLAM: Amen. If you had to pick one guy, who would you say is the best player you’ve ever coached?
BC: I’ve coached a lot of great guys, so I can’t pick one. I’ve been doing for this over 20 years, man, so I can’t pick out one. Let me just say I’ve been extremely fortunate to coach the guys that I have.
SLAM: Fair enough. Who’s the best player you’ve coached against?
BC: The best player I’ve coached against is probably Darren Phillips aka “Primal Fear”. He was one of the most basic streetball players, which threw a lot of people off because he wasn’t flashy or athletic like you would expect. He just did all the little things well, which in the end adds up. It’s a rarity to find someone fundamentally sound on the streetball circuit.
SLAM: Have you ever considered coaching at the college level?
BC: Nah, I’m comfortable where I’m at. People always ask me about college, and my response is this: When I go to college I can only help the 14 or 15 guys on my team. Right now, I can help hundreds of kids go to school. College coaches call me everyday, and I don’t even know half of them. I just love to help kids and watch them use basketball as a tool to advance their lives. I like the idea of teaching kids the game and helping them become successful, not just as players but also as people.
SLAM: You’ve seen talent from all over the country. Would you say New York has produced the best players over the years?
BC: The top two are New York and Chicago. New York is the basketball Mecca, and nobody can ever take that away from us. We raise players, NBA or overseas. And we raise hard-nosed players. I’m from New York, so I have a hometown bias, but Chicago breeds a lot of players too. They hoop for real in Chicago. Like they’re real serious about their basketball.
SLAM: What do you have to say to the critics who claim New York basketball has fallen off?
BC: Honestly, I agree with them. New York players have fell off, and I think it’s because the city is being watered down with AAU programs. A lot of guys coaching these kids don’t teach them anything. These tournaments have become infected with bad AAU programs; programs that are in it for the money and not the success of the kids.
SLAM: With all the hype and excitement surrounding Team NIKE this summer, would you say Dyckman is now the best tournament in New York?
BC: First of all, if you are born and raised in New York, you have to coach or play in Rucker Park. It’s the most historic court in the city and probably the world. So no matter which park or tournament is “hot” right now, nothing is validated until you play at the Rucker.
But it’s true—Dyckman took over this summer. It’s the top tournament right now, but that’s not a knock against Rucker. Dyckman can hold whatever title it wants, but you still have to prove yourself at the Rucker! Shaq, Kobe, David Stern have all been at the Rucker. Also, if you’ve never coached in Rucker Park, then you’re not a real streetball coach.
SLAM: Did you enjoy the influx of NBA players on the streetball circuit this summer?
BC: I think it was great for everyone involved. NBA players can come and work out and compete against other great players, all while having fun. It was also great for the fans because they got to see these guys play for free. So I think it’s been unbelievable. Not that the League is locked out, but for the streets it’s great. I’ve seen this level of hype at the Rucker, but this summer it was all over the country.
SLAM: How do you think Team NIKE would fair against other All-Star caliber teams from around the country?
BC: As far as this year is concerned, I think we were the best team in the country. We won the most heated tournament in the nation and we beat the Drew League by 20. They were all upset after we beat them but I told DeMar [DeRozan] and Brandon [Jennings] we can get in a rematch anytime. I’d love that.