by Krissy Harper / @CSNKrisHarper
The playing days of Brooklyn Nets assistant coaches, longtime NBA journeymen and former Denver Nuggets teammates Popeye Jones and Doug Overton are well behind them, but as their feats and triumphs begin to fade with time, a resurgence of talent that hits close to home is deep in the making.
The 1999 signing of Jones to the Nuggets coincidentally had a grander impact on his son Seth’s professional career than his own. While residing in the snowy city of Denver had its hindrances due to the unkind temperatures and icy highways leading into town, Seth took to a different sport than that of his father.
“We lived in Denver for eight years and it first started with his older brother (Justin),” said Jones. “They were playing roller hockey with other kids in the neighborhood and once it started getting cold in Denver, because we moved to Denver in August of ’99, the kids go inside and play ice hockey. My kids wanted to try, and then off we went to the store. Seth was a little fellow, probably about 4 years old, tailing along and he got some skates and a stick and some equipment also.”
This was a seemingly logical decision for young Seth, living in an environment where ice became his playground and not the hardwood floors where his father’s 11-year tenure was built. But while Seth was beginning to learn the basics of ice hockey, another young athlete was experiencing a different introduction to his sport.
“I remember when he was like 1 or 2 years old,” said Overton, a heady point guard since his days at North Philly’s Dobbins Tech (alma mater of recent Hall of Famer Dawn Staley and the late Hank Gathers, among others), regarding his son Miles. “At the time, I was playing with the Nuggets [during the ’95-96 season] and Dikembe Mutombo picked him up and he dunked the basketball. He has been interested in basketball ever since he was a baby.”
Although Miles—unlike Seth—chose to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, when offered a full scholarship to attend his father’s alma mater in LaSalle, he graciously declined choosing instead to pursue his career at Wake Forest University. The decision, however, did not disappoint Doug; instead, he said this was the best overall decision for his son.
“I thought it would be good for him to just get away. I went to school in Philadelphia, he went to high school in Philadelphia (St. Joseph Prep), so I thought it was good for him to just get away and not be too far from home. Then he doesn’t have the pressure of trying to play at the same school I went to and have to deal with all that,” said Overton, who was interviewed before the Nets’ Game 3 loss to the Bulls in Chicago.
“I am saddened [at the thought of him not attending LaSalle], and thanks for reminding me. But he is at an ACC school and a lot of those games are on TV so I will be tuning in to the ACC network,” he continued. “But I am happy that I will at least be able to watch his games on TV and hopefully I can make a couple of them next year.”
While both sons are in the midst of setting their own mile-high accounts, their dissimilar paths to success have not swayed their performances in their respective sports. Seth Jones put together a spectacular rookie season for the Portland, OR, Winterhawks, posting 14 goals and 56 points in just 61 games which further boosts his stock as the projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey. Come June and a probable No. 1 selection, Jones would be just the seventh US-born player taken first, joining the likes of 2007 top pick and Chicago Blackhawks sensation Patrick Kane.
“These are players you can build your team around,” said NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr and his staff according to Predators.com. “We think Seth’s game is still going to develop, as are [Nathan] MacKinnon and [Jonathan] Drouin, but we had no reason to remove Seth from that No. 1 spot.”
Jay-Z has also taken a strong interest in Seth’s future, wanting to be involved in his potential branding and marketing appeal via Roc Nation Sports (a partner of CAA Sports who also represents Popeye). Being from a mixed background but predominately seen as an African-American, Seth has the probability of being the Tiger Woods of hockey. His impact is limitless, and Jay-Z would love to strike a deal.
“When Seth comes to the NHL Draft (in Newark, NJ) in June, his family, agents at CAA and Roc Nation are going to have a powwow to see if he’ll sign with them,” a source told Page 6 of the New York Post.
“He sees himself that way too [as African-American]. I think that honestly trying to get more African-Americans or inner city kids involved in the sports, I think he sees himself carrying that responsibility; he doesn’t mind that at all,” Popeye commented, prior to Brooklyn’s loss in an epic triple-overtime thriller at the United Center. “Then you’ll see, as he turns professional hopefully he will be in the community doing things in his offseason.”
Adding to his seemingly never-ending resume of success, Jones also played on the Gold medal-winning Team USA at the previous world junior championships. There he accounted for a +8 defensive rating, 7 points, and a goal in just seven games. But despite his ever-growing popularity and success, Jones has remained level-headed and solely focused on accomplishing his goals.
“He is a very grounded kid, very smart kid and as a father I’m proud of him more of the person, the young teenager that he is more than as a hockey player,” Popeye said. “He has been taught to keep his head down and work hard and that’s kind of what he does. He doesn’t let any of it affect him and he knows that hard work pays off and he continues to do that.”
Heading to the former stomping grounds of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, Miles is a guard with a resilient physique and rocket speed. The 18-year-old Wake Forest commit has a boundless mid-range game and a nice shooting stroke from the three and a high release. With a 6-3 solid frame able to withstand contact, he has the ability to drive down the lane with the option of the pull-up jumper inside the paint. Overton averaged just shy of 15 points per game this past season.
Comparing Miles’ arsenal of talent to that of his father’s has its inherent problems, as the two have dissimilar styles of play, according to Miles.
“Sometimes people try to compare me to him,” Miles Overton told philahoops.com. “I don’t do the things he did. Our games are kind of different. He was more of a pass-first type of guard and a lot of people say I score more. He wasn’t as big and athletic as I am, a lot of people say.”
One man who can speak from experience is coach William “Speedy” Morris who coached both Overtons—Doug during his collegiate career at LaSalle and Miles through his high school years at Prep.
“His dad was a point guard and was terrific. Miles is a combo guard. He is stronger than when his dad was that age, [Miles] is a good player and talented kid who’s going to get better,” Morris, a Philadelphia legend, told Philahoops. “He’s very unselfish, a good passer, can score and is a good shooter who is very quick. He’s working on getting a better understanding and better feel. Like a lot of young players, he is getting better every year.
“He’s a great kid from a good family. His potential is unlimited.”
With such bright futures ahead of both Seth and Miles, the dad duo have provided ample amounts of advice to ensure imminent success.
“Ever since he was a young kid, I think [advice] has really helped him. When I was coaching in Dallas it helped him going behind the scenes seeing guys like [Dirk] Nowitzki, the way they worked behind the scenes, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse,” Popeye commented. “Seeing those guys and seeing how they carried themselves as professionals and how hard they worked; you can tell a person but when you are a kid they get to see it themselves, how they prepare for games—he was with me on game nights when he was a little boy—I think those lessons have really paid off.”
“The main things I told him was the guys are going to be bigger, stronger, faster and those are some things that he has to work on since he is going to be playing with older kids now,” said Overton. “Work on his body, become more of an athlete than just a basketball player.”
Being a part of the “NBA father on the road” club hasn’t been the easiest hurdle to overcome. Going from city to city, not seeing family on a regular basis could have a negative effect on emotions but being a part of the Nets made this problem just a small bump in the road.
“It’s tough. The good thing is I work in Brooklyn and it’s not too far from Philadelphia,” Doug noted. “Some coaches have to travel a lot farther to see their family but you take the good with the bad and we try to make the most of it and I do have the offseason to spend a lot of time with the family.”
Transitioning from playing on opposing teams, to becoming teammates, to now completing a third season of coaching together for the Nets, Popeye and Doug have developed a very close relationship. With their sons being relatively close in age and both being athletes, it would be reasonable to assume their sons are also friends. But with their hectic schedules, their paths haven’t crossed just yet.
“He [Miles] has been busy and hockey season runs kind of the same time as basketball season, but they are looking forward to it. They have been hearing a lot about each other,” Overton explained. “Seth is going to be a big-time NHL player and Miles is on his way to playing college ball so hopefully we can get them hooked up and they have a connection because Popeye and I are both coaches so hopefully they both will be doing great things in the future.”
And with the 2013 first-round Playoff series currently sitting in favor of the Chicago Bulls (3-2), this meeting has the potential to take place sooner than later. But Overton’s outlook on the future of the season is simple and straight to the point.
“I just want to win by one point. You know what I’m saying, as long as we get a win it doesn’t matter how many points. We need this one,” Overton said.
While winning Game 6 is still up in the air for the Nets, the futures of both Seth and Miles are bright and their ultimate potential has yet to be realized. The upcoming months and years are sure to be filled with excitement and pleasure beyond measure, for both fathers and sons.