Former NBA great Gary Payton is returning to basketball. The Hall of Fame point guard told he has agreed to a multiyear deal to become the new head basketball coach at Lincoln University back in his hometown of Oakland, California.
“It’s a startup program and a private independent school where I can establish what I want to establish,” Payton told . “I don’t have to go behind anybody to try to make a program become something or keep it going. I can start it off with my own program with what I want to happen.
“And the reason I took it is because it’s in Oakland, California.”
Located in downtown Oakland, Lincoln University is known for its business school and is starting a sports program next school year. Payton hopes to schedule primarily Division I schools and eventually build his program into a full-fledged Division I program.
“Everybody knows we losing all kinds of sports here,” Payton said. “We lost the [Las Vegas] Raiders, the [Oakland] A’s want to leave because we’re not giving them an arena. The [Golden State] Warriors have left. So, we need something to spunk these people, these fans, back up. And especially a guy like myself coming from Oakland, California, and what I’ve done in my career, I think a lot of people would be really, really excited about it.”
Widely considered one of the greatest defenders in NBA history, “The Glove” was a nine-time NBA All-Star, a nine-time All-NBA selection and 1995 Defensive Player of the Year. He is also the Seattle SuperSonics’ all-time leader in points, assists and steals, and won a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006.
Payton’s only coaching experience is with the Big3, where he plans to fulfill his obligation to coach during the 3-on-3 league’s 2021 season.
For Lincoln University, adding an NBA legend like Payton brings instant attention to a little-known school. A source said a major television network is considering following Payton with the Oaklanders.
So what does Payton want his Lincoln University team to look like?
“It’s going to look something like me,” Payton said. “I’m going to get basketball players that’s going to work hard, going to grind, coming from that gritty, gritty neighborhood they grew up in. Some of them have gotten lost. Some of them got overlooked. Now you can come to a school where you can play under a guy like myself, as in a point guard that is going to play defense. Our program is going to play ‘D.’ … We’re going to get up and down the floor, but we’re going to be disciplined.
“We’re going to play the right way. We’re not going to play ball where we’re going to outshoot nobody with 3s or nothing like that. We’re going to take advantage of the things I think they take advantage of.”
Lincoln University men’s basketball program is currently considering several practice facilities and game venues in the Oakland area, a source said, including the Warriors’ former practice facility in Oakland. They also hope to schedule one basketball game next season at Oakland Arena, the Warriors’ old venue formerly called Oracle Arena.
Lincoln University athletic director and head football coach Desmond Gumbs said he began talking to Payton about the basketball opening last November. He added that two Division I schools, including one from the Pac-12 Conference, are already planned for the men’s basketball schedule this coming season.
“It’s exciting times to be a part of Lincoln and then starting the athletic program,” Gumbs said. “And now we have Gary on board. And it’s a great, great time for Oakland.”
Payton is part of a list of Oakland basketball legends that includes Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Jason Kidd, five-time NBA champion Brian Shaw, two-time NBA All-Star Paul Silas, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, among others. Payton starred at Skyline High School in Oakland before playing in college for Oregon State.
Payton is already recruiting nationally, leaning on his contacts from Seattle and Los Angeles, but he expects to focus on recruiting in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area.
“The West Coast is going to be an advantage for me,” said Payton, who also played for the Los Angeles Lakers. “My recruiting in the West Coast is going to be great. I’m going to give everybody a chance. If I can go to the South and the East and they want to come here, I’m going to give them a chance to come here. But I’m going to recruit in my area. I have to recruit in Oakland, California. I have to recruit in LA. I have to recruit in Seattle. I have to recruit in Oregon.
“I have to recruit everywhere, but the West Coast is probably going to be my main hub.”