Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
IN THE AIR TO HOUSTON – Gary Charles doesn’t coach a college team, yet this is the eighth straight year one of his players will appear in the Final Four.
As the head of the New York Panthers AAU team, Charles has seen alums like Lance Thomas (Duke), Danny Green (North Carolina), Joakim Noah (Florida), Charlie Villaneuva (UConn) and Tyquan Dean (Louisville) reach the Final Four. Green and Noah did it twice apiece.
The streak was kept intact this year when 6-foot-4 Kentucky freshman guard Doron Lamb made the trip to Houston. The Wildcats will face UConn in the national semifinals Saturday, with Butler and VCU to meet in the other.
Interestingly, Lamb’s tenure with the Panthers was cut short due to the changing tides of the Sneaker Wars.
“Doron Lamb played in the program in the eighth and ninth grade, but he was at Bishop Loughlin at the time and Reebok took away the high school contract for Bishop Loughlin,” Charles said on a flight from New York City to Houston.
When sneaker guru Sonny Vaccaro retired from the business in 2006, Reebok pulled out of the grassroots basketball business.
“Basically Sonny was gone at the time and they withdrew a lot from the grassroots scene, not just in the high school level but also on the grassroots level,” Charles said. “So Loughlin was one of the teams that they removed. And because of that, the high school coach, Khalid Green, had to do what he had to do and I told him that. And so he was able to get a contract from Nike.”
Once Loughlin jumped to Nike from Reebok, Lamb followed suit in the AAU ranks, too.
He moved to the New York Gauchos from the Panthers.
“Some of the players that I had in that program ended up playing with the Gauchos that particular year, and obviously Doron Lamb was one of them,” Charles said.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.