By Dean Greenaway
Alone with his thoughts outside the Multipurpose Sports Complex on Sunday night, Keith “88” Malone revealed that the time has come to call it quits and give someone else the opportunity to lead the national basketball team.
“I’ve been coaching this team a long time—almost 20 years—but officially, I think it’s time to move on and give somebody else, whether it be an expat, or anyone else the opportunity,” Malone said as he stood outside the on the A. O. Shirley Recreation Grounds while the U.S. Virgin Islands was playing the Bahamas in the gold medal game. “Not because of the loss. It’s because at some point, people tend to get accustomed to something and they develop habits and when you develop habits, habits is what makes you. I think this team has developed a lot of bad habits and it showed throughout the tournament and even last year. So, maybe they need a new face. As the old saying go, I hope they never miss this water, but this well has surely run dry as far as I’m coaching the team.”
Some 25 minutes earlier, an 82-73 loss against Antigua and Barbuda—a team he played against many times and won in the Leeward Islands Basketball Association championships in the 80s and 90s—had beaten the BVI yet again as they did in their first matchup in 1985. The players however, didn’t bring the energy he expected in such a game where there’s a 30 year old rivalry.
Malone said the loss to Antigua hurt—not for him personally—but for the country and the fans, who came out and supported the team. He said when the team wins or an individual has won, there’s no mention of the coach. “As it was my last two games, (Bahamas and Antigua) I asked them to try their best to get these two for me,” Malone revealed. “They never understood what that meant. I told them tonight that’s it for me. We fell short of that but I’m no quitter—there’s still a lot of young kids that need to know basketball and I think that’s where I’m going to dedicate my energies into teaching them. Hopefully, we’ll have a much better and stronger national team.”
Winning the CBC Championships silver medal, beating the USVI and going to the Centrobasket Tournament, Malone cites among the highlights of his tenure as well as two one point losses to Jamaica.
“I’ve had a great tenure—trust me on that—and I cherish and I’ll continue to cherish these moments,” he reflected. “But, you’re not bigger than the game; you’re not bigger than the team; you’re not bigger than the sport. You have to step back sometime, take a look in the mirror and see if you are the problem. I’m not telling you I am the problem—but maybe. For my love of country; for my love of the British Virgin Islands national team; for my love of the guys who are there—for my love of them—I’m stepping back.”
Malone said it’s the BVI Basketball Federation choice to decode the next coach, who can do a better job of motivating the players as he has done more than his share.
“I’ve given back ever since from college days, coming back, brining my knowledge, helping guys to get to school and that will not stop because that’s my passion and my love for the game,” he pointed out. “But, through my tenure, I think I’ve done quite a bit and I’ll continue and try to educate kids through basketball programs. I don’t want anyone figuring that I’m a quitter—I’m not. I’m stepping back for the love of this team, for the love of the country and I’m hoping that by stepping back, does not stumble the team in any way or form—that’s not my intention. Unless God shows me or tell me in some other light that ‘Keith, don’t walk away’ right now, that’s it for me.”