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By LARRY VAUGHT
The last year or so has had what he calls plenty of “ups and downs” but nothing has discouraged Anthony Epps.
“It has been bumpy, but a great learning experience,” said Epps, the starting point guard on Kentucky’s 1996 national championship team. “I had a little trouble with the law (DUI arrest). But I have bounced back and am moving forward.
“I lost my mom in May, and that’s been tough. Hopefully now that I have my (college) degree, I will be getting college coaching job as an assistant. It has always been my dream to coach at a higher level. I love the high school game, but college is what is really for me.”
He still remembers when the late Bill Keightley, the lovable long-time UK basketball equipment manager, told him he would eventually make a good college coach.
“He said I could relate to players because I had been through it,” Epps said. “I could be straight up with them through rough times because I’ve have my own rough times. I can tell them how it is. The biggest thing is just getting my foot in the door to coach.”
Epps has not yet pursued any college opportunities since he resigned as head boys basketball coach at Marion County, his alma mater, following the DUI charge. He’s an assistant football coach as well as an assistant girls basketball coach at Marion this season.
“I wanted to make sure I got my degree work done before I tried to network,” Epps said.
He finished his college degree in business management recently at Mid-Continent University. It took him almost two years to complete the online course work.
“It was not really that rough. I used my kids as motivation. I wanted to get my degree and show them it was important to their dad to finish what he started. I wish I had got it finished at UK, but better late than never,” Epps said. “Now that I have the degree, I will start making some contacts around Christmas for next year.”
However, he’s going to have plenty to do this year working with the girls team where his daughter, Makayla Epps, is perhaps the state’s best player. She originally committed to play at Louisville as did teammate Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, another of the state’s premier players. Both, though, have switched their commitments to Kentucky. Makayla Epps will wear No. 25, the same number her father wore at Kentucky.
“We went on a visit to Kentucky and the first thing I told her was that it was her decision. I have been through all this. I don’t have to play, she does,” Epps said. “It’s all about what is best for her. She decided Kentucky was best for her. A lot of it had to do with her best friend (Goodin-Rogers) committing to Kentucky. But I like the style coach (Matthew) Mitchell uses and she fell in love with it. I wish her the best.”
Her story is similar to her father’s journey to Kentucky.
“I never did commit to UofL, but I grew up a Louisville fan,” Epps laughed and said. “Coach (Denny) Crum recruited me hard, but coach (Rick) Pitino persuaded me to go to UK. I was looking not only at basketball, but what after basketball would be best for me as a person.
“I also won a state championship at Marion County. I will be on the bench with the team this year and it would be great to play in one and win state as a coach and to do it with my daughter and having her win a championship like I did would just be tremendous.”
How good is his daughter?
“She has always been blessed with athletic ability even when she was little. As the years have gone on, she has got better. A lot of the credit goes to guys in the community. They would not take easy on her. They beat up, she cried and she came back for more. Now she has blossomed into a special player,” Epps said.
“She can score but her main thing is she loves to pass the basketball and get teammates involved. If she scores two points or 30 and her team wins, she’s going to be happy. She’s very humble, a very hard worker. She is like her dad — if she wins, she’s happy. But she is far ahead of where I was skill-wise. I got better in college. I have got one thing over her is that I came away with a national championship. I hope she can get one with coach Mitchell. But I know with her going there she is going to get a lot of fan love.”
Epps said if she had gone to Louisville, that would have been no problem for him.
“To me, it is not a big deal because she would still have had a scholarship and free education. She made the decision she wanted to make. I wanted her to make that decision to go to Kentucky, but I never told her that. It was her choice to make,” he said. “Now it would mean the world to me to see her get a state championship this year. That would be the icing on the cake.”
Of course, that would put him back in the limelight — something that he seems unable to avoid.
“I think I will always be out there. You look at the greats that have played before me at Kentucky and you still hear about them,” Epps said. “People still come up and say that just love what I did at Kentucky. It was an honor to go there and accomplish what we did. Whether you know me or not, I know what I did will go down in the history books as being one of the greatest teams ever.