Chillin’ with Boykins

Pig Trail Nation

Story By Drew Amman:

Our latest edition of Chillin’ with the Coach is a sit-down three-part series with Arkansas Men’s Basketball Director of Student-Athlete Development Earl Boykins. Since his retirement from the NBA, Boykins spent time as head coach at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, Colorado while also running the Boykins Basketball Academy in Denver. Founder of the nonprofit “Boykins Kids,” Earl has also delivered lectures on leadership.

Part One (at 5’5, Proving the Critics Wrong)

Undrafted, Boykins NBA Career spanned 13 years. At 5’5, he is the second-shortest player in NBA History. “Playing the game has always been easy for me but overcoming the prejudice that at your height you can’t succeed, or at your height, you’ll have to change the way you play, that was the hardest part,” Boykins said. The part Boykins emphasizes the most is the importance of undersized players putting in the work to master the fundamentals. Exactly how did Earl work to that end? “I worked out with post players in high school (in Cleveland, Ohio at Cleveland Central Catholic). My high school coach thought it was important for me to develop post moves, your know the fundamentals, how to post up as a guard. It’s the same footwork that you use on the perimeter,” Boykins notes. Reverse pivots, how to shoot off your right or left leg, Boykins worked on his craft to score 5,791 points, while also dishing out 2,092 assists in the NBA. Now for the mindset. Boykins believed that when he played, ten times out of ten, he was the most confident player on the court. “From that standpoint my love for the game, it was never actually hard. A lot of people view it as, hard to make it in the NBA, and I never viewed it that way,” Boykins said.

Earl played for the Nets, Cavs, Magic, Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards and Rockets during his run in the NBA.

Part Two: Q & A (Boykins Reunited with Coach Musselman)

“It’s been a lot of fun. A lot of fun, this was my first time ever in Arkansas and I really didn’t know what to expect. The people in Fayetteville, unbelievable.

(Drew Amman)

Your connections with Coach Musselman…he coached you when he was an assistant with the Orlando Magic, then as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, what was that experience like?


“Muss is actually a great guy. I think he gets a bad reputation because of the intensity that he coaches with, but off the court, he is a great guy. When he reached out to me, it was an opportunity to learn, he’s a brilliant mastermind. He knows the game of basketball in and out, and it’s opportunity for me to come here and help him turn this program around and get back to the winning ways.”


He said you see this game through a different lens being a former NBA Player, so when you hear him say that, how would you describe that?


“It’s true, I’ve always viewed basketball differently from every coach or player who has been in the game. It’s mainly because of my height. When you are 5’5 and you make it to the NBA, you view things differently. I’ve always been positive, but realistic about my career as a player, but also now as a coach.”


Second shortest player in NBA History, but yet when you went on the court, you said it multiple times, you felt like you were the best player on the floor.


Always, I’ve always believed that, and even at a young age, I believed I would play in the NBA. There was never a doubt in my mind. I can remember fifth, sixth grade, me talking to my friends about what they wanted to do, and they would look at me and say, you know, what do you wanna do? I said I am going to be an NBA Player. I’ve always had that type of confidence and when I became better in basketball, my confidence just grew.”


I thought it was interesting watching how crafty you could be. How much are you able to convey that to the guys here on campus, if it is a scenario where you are undersized, this is an undersized team here at Arkansas, how do you convey that to the best of your ability?


“I think the most important thing for me, but including any player who is undersized is, you have to master the fundamentals. It goes back to when I was in high school. When I was in high school, I actually did break down drills with big guys, I worked out with post players in high school. My coach thought it was important for me to develop the fundamentals, how to post up as a guard, and I learned it in high school, and it’s the same footwork that you use on the perimeter. Knowing how to shoot off your right leg, knowing how to shoot off your left leg, these are things that learned at a young age, and this team here, we’ll have to be good at the fundamentals of basketball. Rebound the basketball, don’t turn the ball over, take good shots. The little things are what we will have to master in order to make up the difference in lack of size.”


Yeah, what about that when you typically go with a four-guard lineup? How can that work in your favor given the Hogs’ personnel this season?


“I think it definitely gives us a huge advantage at the offensive end. I don’t think there will be a lot of teams matching up with us offensively especially with Mason playing the four. He’s a natural three, but when he’s playing the four, someone will have to step away from the basket in order to defend him. Defensively, we’ll have the challenge where we’ll have to gang rebound. When the shot goes up, everyone must box out, and it will have to be a concerted effort to actually hold teams to one shot. If we’re able to do that, we’ll be okay.”


Love the NBA Experience that is on this staff. What is it like working every day with Musselman, Clay Moser, Chris Crutchfield and Corey Williams?


“It’s great to be around guys who actually understand basketball. Up in that basketball office, there is a lot of basketball wisdom, and so, for me, this is my first year coaching at the collegiate level, so for me, being around that type of experience both in the NBA and colleges, is absolutely amazing.”

Part Three: Q & A (Boykins on EMU Days & his friendship with Spud Webb)


At Eastern Michigan, two MAC Tournament Titles, tell me about that experience, what it was like being in Ypsilanti?


“It was unbelievable because, for the MAC at that time, the competition at that time, every year there was a lottery pick. You had Bonzi Wells from Ball State, Gary Trent from Ohio, Wally Szczerbiak, you had Antonio Daniels, so, to be a part of that area, and to have the success that we had while I was at Eastern was something I’m really proud of.”


What about the way they honored you, retiring your number?


“When you play the game, you never think about things like that, you’re just worried about winning as many games as you can, and be the best player you can. When I got the call that they wanted to retire my number, it was very humbling, and it’s not something that you ever think about.”


Mugsy Bogues (5’3), the only one shorter in the league all-time, but I recently saw an interview and noticed you were on there with Kevin Garnett and Spud Webb. What’s your relationship with Spud Webb?


“Spud is a great guy. Met him in 1998 when I first arrived in the NBA and we’ve been in touch throughout my entire career, he’s a great guy. He’s really humble because you know, he’s 5’7, but to win a dunk competition, the stuff he was doing was unbelievable, so he was definitely someone I looked up to.”

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