Training was not on Todd Day’s plans when he started coaching his son’s AAU team in 2009.
Day was only a few years away from his playing career – which included a 15-year professional adventure with 483 games for five NBA teams – but Todd Jr. was not physically ready for some of the major travel schedules of Memphis.
So Day, the all-time leading men’s scorer at the University of Arkansas, made his own team, naming them the Hogs – because he was going to represent his alma mater, even in Tigers territory.
Little did he know he would still be coaching more than 12 years later, now in his sixth season at the helm of Philander Smith’s men’s basketball team. The historically black Little Rock-based college, which competes at the NAIA level, will make the 10-minute trip across town this afternoon to take on the University of Arkansas-Little Rock at Jack Stephens Center.
And across the scoring table, there will be another great Razorback in UALR coach Darrell Walker, who has known Day for almost three decades.
“His basketball resume speaks for itself,” Walker said of Day, two-time All-American and the No.8 pick in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. “It was great that he took on Philander Smith’s job and he’s doing pretty well.”
Day coached TJ at the Memphis Academy of Health and Sciences, then jumped into his alma mater, Hamilton High, on the south side of Memphis in 2014.
When Philander Smith’s post opened two years later, Day traveled west on Interstate 40 to be closer to the family of his wife Brenda.
Family and basketball are entwined for Day. His stepfather, Ted Anderson, won over 500 games and a state title in 38 seasons as a Tennessee high school coach. TJ followed his father, as a student manager at Middle Tennessee State before joining Todd as Philander Smith’s assistant.
But the family is not only by blood. Day considers Walker a big brother and has relied on Walker for advice since his college days in Fayetteville.
âOur relationship has actually grown even further since we retired,â Day said. âWe attended a lot of functions together and got to talk a lot about basketball.â¦ [Darrell] is someone I admire [and I] would love to do what he did in his coaching career. “
Where the two share similarities – aside from both being born in Illinois – is their belief in running defense-focused teams. Walker’s Trojans have held their opponents under 70 points each of the past two seasons. Philander Smith is sixth out of 237 NAIA teams this season, with 60.1 points per game.
That identity stems from four years under Nolan Richardson, as the former Arkansas coach’s 40 Minute Philosophy helped the Razorbacks to a combined 115-24 record and a Final Four appearance in 1990. during Day’s academic tenure.
“Everyone knows that when Philander comes to town, it will be a pressure -[heavy], kind of game on all the court, âDay said. “If there’s one thing I’ll take to my grave, the coach [Richardson] taught me, it was to outdo the guy in front of you. “
Richardson didn’t want it any other way.
“That’s the only thing,” said Richardson when asked if he hopes his former players will implement his patented strategy into their own coaching careers. “You can defend yourself on the road, but you can’t always take your offense with you. There is no excuse not to play defense.”
Just as Day had no plans to become a coach, he isn’t necessarily looking to leave Philander Smith. He has received offers to become a Division I assistant and said he would consider returning to his alma mater or returning to Memphis to join his longtime friend and current Tigers coach Penny Hardaway.
But he’s content with Little Rock. Sitting on the bottom row of the bleachers inside Philander’s Mims Gymnasium, Day watches TJ coach one of their players while keeping an eye out for his one-year-old granddaughter, Tatum.
Wrapped up in a puffy green jacket, she walks around the hardwoods before finding the whistle on Day’s keychain. Maybe she’ll be next.
âIf something better opens up, I’ll always be looking,â Day said. “But Philander gave me a great opportunity to train and work with my son, so I will always be grateful to them.”