Derrick Lewis 'turning the corner' with Archbishop Spalding boys basketball team
Former Maryland standout leading No. 7 Cavaliers into Baltimore Catholic League quarterfinals
As Kyree was about to enter high school — Lewis and his wife also have a daughter, Jacey, who is now 10 — Lewis sold his share in the recruiting service and took a job teaching physical education and coaching the junior varsity at Archbishop Spalding. He became the varsity coach in his second year and is now the chairman of the physical education department.
While Lewis said he has taken many of his coaching principles from those he played for — from Lefty Driesell to a number of coaches in the French League — one of his biggest influences remains Wade, the former Dunbar coaching legend who Lewis played for during his junior and senior years at Maryland. Wade was fired after three tumultuous seasons.
"He came in and turned the program around," said Lewis, alluding to the Terps going to the NCAA tournament during Wade's second year. "I learned from him the importance of a family. He brought us together after what we had been through with Lenny [Bias]. He was a guy who gave you the shirt off his back — even if it didn't fit."
Wade, who has been the Baltimore City director of athletics since shortly after leaving Maryland, said in a recent interview that he is not surprised his former captain has turned into a pretty good coach.
"It was really evident when he was at Maryland because you could see he had a tremendous feel and understanding for the game," Wade said. "During our scouting sessions, he would always offer suggestions as to how we should play against players and teams. I have a lot of respect for him. It's good to see him doing well at Spalding. He's a kind-hearted person, a caring individual who would do anything he could for you."
Said Archbishop Spalding athletic director Jeff Parsons: "His playing experience is immeasurable for what he brings to the table. Just where he's played, what he's done, the level of competition he's gotten to. But at the same time, Derrick has an old-school way about him and he holds the kids to certain standards. The rules are the same for Kid 1 as they are for Kid 13."
Junior guard Kai Dalce said Lewis often will scrimmage with his team, trying to show his players how to block shots, rebound and take charges like he once did.
One of Lewis' memorable moments came when legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith admonished him coming off the court at halftime against the Tar Heels for the way he was using his elbows to free himself for rebounds.
"Every time we go up for a shot block, he says, 'None of you can block shots, so just take charges. I'm the only shot blocker in the gym,'" Dalce said. "Every time somebody's pressuring you, he'll say, 'Get him off you.' He'll stop practice and swing his elbows and say, 'This is how you do it.'"
But there is a softer side to Lewis that is evident when he is coaching his players.
"He's really nurturing," Dalce said. "Say, if I'm like the last one at practice, he'll say, 'Do you need me to give you a ride home?' Even though I know he lives far away from me. He's still a caring person. He's like a father figure to everyone on the team."
One of his former French League teammates is not surprised to hear that Lewis has transitioned into coaching.
Mickael Pietrus was 20 in 2001 when Lewis joined EB Pau-Orhtez.
"That's one of those guys who taught me what it was to be a professional," Pietrus, now in his 10th year in the NBA and playing for the Toronto Raptors, said before Tuesday's game in Washington. "He was one of the best players I've played with human-wise in terms of what it takes to be a professional."
Told by a reporter that Lewis was coaching high school basketball in the area, Pietrus said: "I wish I had known that."
Pietrus gave the reporter his cell number to pass on to Lewis.
A teaching moment