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Recapping The Coaching Carousel: Who were the biggest winners and biggest losers?

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The 2019 college basketball coaching carousel has not quite finished spinning — of this writing, there are two jobs that are still open: Howard and Morgan State — but barring something unforeseen, all of the relevant coaching changes have been made.

That means it is time for us to sit back and figure out who won, who lost and who was left out of this year’s carousel.

And more than anything, the most interesting part of the coaching changes that were made this season had to do with who was not involved instead of the guys that got new gigs.

WINNER: COACHES IN THE FBI’S CROSSHAIRS

To date, the only head coach that has lost his job as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball has been Rick Pitino, and I think there is an argument to be made that Pitino would have kept his job had he not found himself in a second embarrassing scandal in the span of less than two years. Put another way, he was fired as much for having an assistant coach pay for hookers and strippers for players and recruits as he was for Brian Bowen getting paid.

It looks like the rest of the head coaches that were caught up in this mess are going to survive. Bruce Pearl got an extension last season, before he led Auburn to the 2019 Final Four. USC’s Andy Enfield has a ton of talent on his roster this season, and after missing the NCAA tournament last year, the Trojans look like they are in the mix to be a top 25 team again this season. Arizona’s Sean Miller had a rough 2018-19 season, but he’s bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country this year and looks like he’ll head into next season as a favorite to win the Pac-12 again. Like LSU’s Will Wade, Miller dodged a bullet as a judge ruled that he will not have to testify in the current trial happening in New York. Bill Self may have seen his Big 12 title streak come to an end as a result of this investigation, but if Kansas gets Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes back next season, they will enter 2019-20 as the favorites to start a new streak.

It’s not over yet, but at this point, it looks like all of those coaches are going to live to fight another day.

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LOSER: DIVERSITY

To date, there are 53 Division I head coaching positions that have opened up this spring, and of those 53, 51 of those jobs have been filled. Of those 53 jobs that opened up, 17 of them had a black head coach leave, either after getting fired or jumping to a better job. Take away the four HBCU programs that opened, and just three of the 13 programs that previously had a black head coach replaced them with another black head coach — George Washington, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.

All five high-major programs that fired a black head coach — Arkansas, Alabama, Cal, UNLV and Washington State — replaced them with a white head coach.

Compare that with the white head coaches that left their jobs. There were 36 of them, and 30 of those 36 programs replaced the previous white head coach with another white head coach, including seven of the 11 high-majors. St. John’s, Tulane, Temple and Vanderbilt were the only high-majors that fired a white head coach and replaced him with a black head coach.

In total, just eight of the 65 head coaches in Power Five leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) are black. Every head coach in the Big Ten and the Pac-12 is white. That’s just 12.3 percent, significantly behind football, where 12 of the 65 Power Five head coaches are black.

Both the Big East and the American have embraced diversity, as half of the schools in both leagues have black head coaches, but even then, just 21.8 percent of the head coaches in the seven leagues that we can call high-major are black.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that percentage is significantly lower than the number of current and former high-major players that are black.

And don’t, for a second, think that the people discussing those numbers aren’t also discussing how the four assistant coaches that were fired as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college hoops corruption are all black and the five head coaches that have remained employed with their seven-figure salaries are all white.

WINNER: COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

Pat Chambers has been the head coach at Penn State since 2011. He has not yet made an NCAA tournament, but he wasn’t fired this offseason thanks to an impressive surge at the end of the season from the Nittany Lions. Dave Leitao finished tied for last in the Big East again this season, but since DePaul finished with a winning record, he was brought back for a fifth season. Jim Christian missed his fifth straight tournament with Boston College and will now be asked to win without Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson, because he will be back on Chestnut Hill for a sixth year. Chris Mooney survived at Richmond. So did Josh Pastner, who has struggled at Georgia Tech and currently is dealing with an NCAA investigation into his program.

But perhaps the biggest name here is Danny Manning. He’s made one NCAA tournament in five seasons at Wake Forest, and has yet to finish above .500 in ACC play in a single season. In four of the five years he’s been in Winston Salem, the Demon Deacons have won five or fewer league games. He’s had talent on his roster, too — John Collins, Bryan Crawford, Devin Thomas, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Jaylen Hoard, Chaundree Brown.

Some guys on the hot seat lost their job — Steve Alford, Ernie Kent, Tim Miles, Chris Mullin, etc. — but it wasn’t the bloodbath some expected it to be.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

LOSER: HIRES THAT MAKE GEOGRAPHICAL SENSE

Nate Oats grew up in Watertown, Wisconsin. He played at a Division III program in Wisconsin, then spent the first 22 years of his coaching career in and around the great lakes. Six seasons at the Division III level in Wisconsin, 11 years at the high school level in Detroit, six years at the Division I level at Buffalo. He was just hired to takeover Alabama from Avery Johnson. That is a weird, weird fit. I have little doubt that Oats will be able to do well with the players currently on the Alabama roster, but I do not know how he is going to be able to recruit. One source connected to high school recruiting in the south told NBC Sports he can’t know how Oats will do at that level “because I don’t know him. I’ve never even shaken his hand.”

The same can be said for Mike Anderson at St. John’s. Anderson has spent the last 37 years coaching in Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, and now he’s heading up New York City to rebuild the Johnnies? That, too, is a weird fit.

(That said, I’ve come around a bit on this hire after talking to a couple of smart people. He’s going to need to make a hire that can get him on the right side of the power brokers in NYC, but I think the ’40 Minutes Of Hell’ brand might be able to work for St. John’s in the Big East. New York doesn’t have the greats that it has had in the past, but there is talent to be found and, an abundance of toughness and athleticism everywhere you look. I don’t know if that is a style that can win the league or get to a Final Four, but I do think it could be good enough to make the Johnnies relevant on an annual basis, and that’s not something that we have said in a long time.)

Perhaps the biggest example of this is Mick Cronin. A Cincinnati native that has spent his career coaching in Ohio and Kentucky, Cronin is heading out west to take over California’s flagship program, UCLA. Not only is it a weird fit geographically, but stylistically, too. Cronin is a screamer, he’s intense and he built a consistent winner with the Bearcats based on defending and rebounding. He’s like Ben Howland, only smaller and angrier. Howland did make three Final Fours, but he angered enough people in SoCal to get himself fired after winning a Pac-12 regular season title.

We’ll see if it works out better from Cronin.

WINNER: THE STATE OF TEXAS

Let’s start with the obvious: The best hire of this year’s carousel was the one that was probably the longest in the making — Texas A&M bringing in former assistant Buzz Williams to take things over. Buzz is a Texas native that had built Marquette and Virginia Tech into top 10 teams before heading to College Station, and I fully expect him to find a way to do the same thing with the Aggies.

That said, the biggest winner in this year’s carousel was probably Houston, who held off Arkansas and kept Kelvin Sampson as their head coach. Sampson has led the Cougars to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, and they came within a possession of knocking off Kentucky and advancing to the Elite Eight this season despite the fact that they lost Rob Gray. He’s a terrific basketball coach, one that will keep Houston at or near the top of the AAC as long as he is on the sidelines. The same can be said for Chris Beard, who will be returning to Texas Tech, where he led the Red Raiders to the Big 12 regular season title and the Final Four, next season.

Also worth mentioning: Jamie Dixon and UCLA couldn’t work their way around his buyout, so he is still at TCU. And not that he was going anywhere, but Scott Drew is still at Baylor.

The level of coaching in the collegiate ranks in the state of Texas has never been higher …

LOSER: THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

… and that’s not necessarily a good thing for Shaka Smart, who has yet to find the level of success at Texas that he had at VCU. That was weighing on the minds of many within the coaching industry this year, as there was plenty of speculation that Shaka would try and find a way out of Texas before Texas sent him packing. And the heat isn’t going to get turned down at all any time soon, not with the competition that he has in his own state these days.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

SIX MORE WINNERS

NEBRASKA: Nebraska fired Tim Miles after what felt like half-a-decade on the hot seat, replacing him with Fred Hoiberg. Miles was a good coach that had some bad luck in his final two seasons, but I’m not sure there is a better fit for Nebraska that Hoiberg. The job isn’t all that different from Iowa State — same part of the country, same passionate fanbase, same homecourt advantage — which is where The Mayor had a ton of success before jumping to the NBA.

MIKE YOUNG: Young has been a basketball coach for 33 years of his life, and 30 of them were spent at Wofford. This past season, as the Terriers head coach, Young led his team to the best season in program history before replacing Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech. He’s the first coach since 2003 to go from the SoCon to a power five program, and it’s a job in the heart of Southern Virginia, where Young’s roots lie.

CINCINNATI: Losing Mick Cronin is a tough blow for the Bearcats. He led them to nine straight NCAA tournaments, and that is nothing to scoff at. He’s a really good basketball coach and was a perfect fit for that program. But Brannen is a solid replacement, a guy that led Northern Kentucky — a recent addition to Division I — to two NCAA tournaments in the last three years. He has roots in Kentucky and Ohio as well. He’ll do well there.

WASHINGTON STATE: Kyle Smith is the first coach since Jan Van Breda Kolff in 2001 to leave the WCC for a better job in a bigger league, as he left San Francisco for Washington State. Before that, he led Columbia to the best season they’ve had in the KenPom era. He’s won at tough jobs, and Wazzu might just be the toughest high major job in college basketball.

THE SEC: Buzz Williams taking over Texas A&M is the obvious big name here, but Rick Barnes remaining at Tennessee because UCLA wouldn’t pay his buyout is huge for the Vols. Eric Musselman replacing Mike Anderson is probably an upgrade, and while Nate Oats in Alabama is a weird fit, he should be able to, at the very least, get the job done with the group currently on the roster. LSU and Auburn look like they won’t have to fire Will Wade and Bruce Pearl, at least not yet, and while Jerry Stackhouse is an outside-the-box hire at Vanderbilt, he’s replacing a guy that didn’t win a league game last season.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: The Colonials went out and made a really nice hire to replace Maurice Joseph, hiring Jamion Christian away from Siena. Christian is one of the brighter young coaches in college hoops, having taken Mount St. Mary’s to two NCAA tournaments in five seasons before getting the job at Siena.

TWO LOW-KEY HEAD-SCRATCHING HIRES

SOUTHERN MISS: Doc Sadler spent five seasons at Southern Miss, winning 20 games this part year and just about erasing the memory of the NCAA sanctions that were left over from Donnie Tyndall’s tenure. Then Sadler left to become an assistant at Nebraska, a school that fired him, and instead of hiring Mark Adams — the man responsible for Texas Tech’s defense and a legend in the Texas JuCo ranks — Southern Miss hired Jay Ladner, a guy that went 17-16 at Southeastern Louisiana last year.

NEVADA: Nevada’s decision to replace Eric Mussleman with Steve Alford isn’t a terrible hire by any means. Alford had quite a bit of success as the head coach at New Mexico before taking over at UCLA. The head-scratching part is the fact that he got a 10-year deal from Nevada.

Kara Lawson hired as new Duke head coach

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Duke announced on Saturday that Kara Lawson, a former Tennessee guard and ESPN commentator, has been hired as the new head coach of the school’s women’s basketball team.

Lawson, 39, had been an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics before accepting the job at Duke, where she will be replacing Joanne McCallie. McCallie announced earlier this month that she would not be returning to the program.

Lawson is the first Black head coach in the program’s history, the second Black head coach hired by an ACC school this offseason and the third Black woman coaching an ACC women’s team. In total, there are five Black head coaches in the league on the women’s side.

Zion’s attorneys: Court filing claiming $400K payment contains fraudulent information

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Attorneys representing Zion Williamson in a lawsuit filed by former his marketing agent Gina Ford have claimed that the allegations set forth in her latest court filing are “fraudulent” and “a desperate and irresponsible attempt to smear Mr. Williamson.”

Ford claimed to have obtain “newly-discovered evidence” regarding her lawsuit against Zion, specifically that the player and his stepfather accepted $400,000 from a marketing agent named Slavko Duric in October of 2018. Zion signed a contract with Ford and her company, Prime Sports Marketing, on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of the case hinges on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers are arguing that this made the contract itself invalid. Ford’s attorneys, on the other hand, are attempting to prove that Zion was actually ineligible at the time, meaning that he was not protected by UAAA, and this evidence is their latest attempt to do it.

Except, according to the attorneys representing Zion Williamson’s family, all of the evidence in the latest filing in this lawsuit is fake.

Included in the exhibits attached to the motion filed by Ford’s lawyers is a statement from a man named Donald Kreiss, who claims that he invested in a company owned by Duric called Maximum Management Group. MMG purportedly had an exclusive marketing agreement with Williamson, the proof being an agreement that was allegedly signed by Williamson, a letter of declaration to repay the $400,000 that was paid in 2018 and a copy of Zion’s driver’s license.

“The alleged ‘agreements’ and driver’s license attached to these papers are fraudulent,” read a statement from Jeffery Klein, Zion’s attorney and obtained by Daniel Wallach of The Athletic. “Neither Mr. Williamson nor his family know these individuals nor had any dealing with them. We had previously alerted Ms. Ford’s lawyers to both this fact and that we had previously reported the documents to law enforcement as forgeries, but they chose to go ahead with another frivolous filing anyway.”

Here is a photo, courtesy of Wallach’s twitter feed, of Zion’s license.

Via @WALLACHLegal

Speaking as someone that bartended on a college campus for a decade, I would not accept this ID. The ‘E’ at the end of LICENSE is not in bold. The last three digits of his zip code are a different font than the first two. There is no shadow behind his ears in the picture, which is the first thing I was taught to look for on an ID I thought was fake. Most conspicuous? His weight is listed as a height and his height is listed as a weight.

Furthermore, Zion’s attorneys claim that Duric is the same man that tried to run a similar scam on Luka Doncic.

“A simple Google search reveals that Slavko Duric, whose ostensible sports marketing entity has no online presence, purportedly attempted to defraud Luka Doncic … using a scheme in which he forged Doncic’s and his mother’s signatures on a contract,” read a letter, obtained by Wallach. that Williamson’s attorney sent to Ford’s attorney before the motion was filed.

The intrigue into Zion Williamson’s lawsuit is about smearing Duke basketball’s image

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This column was originally published on May 11th of 2020.

The public intrigue into Zion Williamson’s current lawsuit and legal battle has nothing to do with Zion Williamson himself and everything to do with smearing the glossy veneer of the Duke basketball program.

That’s the truth.

The numbers involved in this litigation — reportedly up to $200 million is at stake — will certainly raise some eyebrows, but contract disputes are rarely interesting for anyone that isn’t in law school. That’s what this is. Zion signed a contract with Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of this civil case is going to hinge on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers will argue that this made the contract itself invalid.

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(And no, I don’t, for a second, think that Zion was ever returning to Duke. Neither does Ford, or anyone with any common sense. It’s why I wrote this “column” last May, when the rumors of Zion returning to school started rolling through the basketball world. That said, if I was a cynic, I would take a close look at that timeline. Rumors of Zion returning to school just happened to start circulating right around the time that he was trying to find a way out of a marketing contract to sign with a bigger agency? Hmm. Interesting. But I’m not a cynic, so I certainly won’t suggest that it was nothing other than a well-orchestrated PR ploy knowing that this would inevitably end up in the court system one day. Wouldn’t dream of insinuating anything like it.)

Which brings us to Mother’s Day.

That’s when Daniel Wallach of The Athletic first published snippets of the latest Zion Williamson lawsuit that was filed by Ford and her attorneys. Among them were requests for admission that Zion and his family received all kinds of money, benefits and gifts to play at Duke and to induce him to wear Nike and Adidas at different points during his high school career. The legal ploy is simple, really: If Zion or his parents are forced, under oath, to admit that they accepted illegal benefits at any point during his recruitment or while on the roster at Duke, it would mean that he was retroactively ineligible. If he was actually ineligible during his one season in Durham, then the UAAA wouldn’t be relevant. The contract, which, according to Ford’s lawsuit, could only be terminated with cause, would stand and Zion would be on the hook for a lot of money.

At this point, it does not appear that there is much evidence proving that Zion accepted illegal benefits. When asked by Dana O’Neil of The Athletic if they have any proof of wrongdoing, Ford’s attorney said, “We have ideas, opinions and some leads of our own. We are looking for information to support our case. This is what we want to know.” Requests for admission are, essentially, fact-finding missions during discovery in civil cases. Put another way, at this point, these requests are nothing more than proof that Ford’s lawyers have heard the same rumors and read the same court docs that people in basketball circles and on college basketball message boards have.

But no one actually cares about the legalese here, because if they did, they’d realize that Zion is under no obligation to answer, and even if he is somehow forced to, nothing will come of this for a long, long time.

The people that care this case care about catching Coach K in a lie. They care about proving that the holier-than-thou way that Duke carries itself is fraudulent. They care about finding a way to get something — anything — to stick to the program that recruits better than anyone else in an era where recruiting is the Wild, Wild West.

Do you remember when Lance Thomas dropped $30,000 in cash as a down payment for $67,800 in jewelry a year before Thomas and Duke won the 2010 national title? Nothing came of it. Remember when Corey Maggette admitted to receiving payments from Myron Piggie before becoming a member of the team that made it to the 1999 national title game? Nothing came of that, either. Nothing happened when Wendell Carter’s name popped up on expense reports submitted by Christian Dawkins. Nothing happened when Michael Avenatti alleged that Nike paid Marvin Bagley’s family.

All told, there are 13 high-major programs that are dealing with the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball: Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, N.C. State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, TCU and USC.

Duke, despite a cloud of smoke surrounding Zion that would make Seth Rogen envious, has been hit with … nada.

The public is looking for their pound of flesh, and nothing would satiate that bloodlust quite like an admission from Zion Williamson in this lawsuit that he was paid to go to Duke.

Ivy League calls off fall sports due to outbreak

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The Ivy League on Wednesday became the first Division I conference to say it will not play sports this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. The league left open the possibility of moving some seasons to the spring if the outbreak is better controlled by then.

The decision was described to the AP by a person speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the official announcement.

Although the coalition of eight academically elite schools does not grant athletic scholarships or compete for an NCAA football championship, the move could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports. Football players in the Power Five conferences have already begun workouts for a season that starts on Aug. 29, even as their schools weigh whether to open their campuses to students or continue classes remotely.

The Ivy decision affects not just football but everything before Jan. 1, including soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country, as well as the nonconference portion of the basketball season.

Power Five conferences told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they were still considering their options. But it was the Ivy League’s March 10 decision to scuttle its postseason basketball tournament that preceded a cascade of cancellations that eventually enveloped all major college and professional sports.

“What’s happening in other conferences is clearly a reflection of what’s happening nationally and any decisions are made within that context,” said Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the Big Ten’s infectious disease task force, adding that there is no “hard deadline” for a decision.

“Clearly, regardless of what happens in the fall, sports are coming back eventually,” he said. “So we want to make sure that whenever that time (is) right to return to competition, that we have the infrastructure and the recommendations in place to be able to do so safely for the student-athletes, staff, coaches, fans, students.”

Ivy League schools are spread across seven Northeastern states that, as of mid-July, have seen some success at controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. But most of those states still ban large gatherings; under the Massachusetts reopening plan, Harvard would not be allowed to have fans in the stands until a vaccine is developed.

Harvard has already announced that all classes for both semesters will be held virtually; dorms will be open only to freshmen and seniors. Yale said it would limit its dorms to 60% capacity and said most classes would be conducted remotely. Princeton will also do most of its teaching online, with dorms at half capacity.

Coaches 4 Change: Siena’s Carmen Maciariello spearheads social justice initiative

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Carmen Maciariello found himself in the same place so many of us did in the days after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis.

Devastated by what he was seeing. Motivated to find a way to use his platform as the head coach at Siena College to enact change. Struggling with how, as he puts it, “a white head coach from privilege at a school in New York,” can have real, honest, open dialogue with his majority-Black roster.

So he picked up the phone. He called Louis Orr, his former college coach and now an assistant coach at Georgetown. He called his closest friends in the coaching business. He called his advisor, Brad Konerman, an entrepreneur who connected him with a couple of talented website designers. By early June, 25 like-minded people from all walks of life were on a zoom call.

“I’ve never been pulled over and feared for my life for not using my blinker,” Maciariello, who is white, told me. “We had those conversations. How are we talking to our teams about that? What are we doing with the police? How can we help our young people navigate through these tough times?”

That’s how Coaches 4 Change was born.

Maciariello has grand plans for the organization. On a zoom call with nearly all of the 43 coaches that have committed to the group to date, he said he wants “to try to change the world. Let’s not think small, we’ve gotta think big with this.” He is not lacking for ambition.

But Maciariello also understands that something like this has to start small and it has to start locally. It’s why he limited the first group of invitees to coaches that are “doing this for the right reasons.”

“I didn’t want to have a donate link and bring in coaches that felt like, ‘I donated money, I did my part supporting it,” he said. “It was about the time commitment and the vision. We have to focus on one thing first.”

That first thing?

Voting.

C4C developed a sleek, interactive website to help educate young people about social injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement, things as basic as the difference between systemic and systematic racism and Jackie Robinson’s impact on sports. But the site also provides users with all of the information necessary to vote in this year’s elections, information on what makes voting so important in a democracy and — most importantly — a tutorial for how a person in every state can register to vote, where their polling stations are and whether or not they are eligible for mail-in voting. Their website also has a ‘Keep Learning‘ page that links to all documentaries, podcasts, audiobooks and literary resources available on all streaming platforms, including content for children.

C4C has partnered with Vote.org with a goal of “100 percent voter registration for all college athletes” regardless of the sport they play, Maciariello said.

Currently, the only coaches involved with C4C are men’s college basketball coaches, but that will change. They are in the process of reaching out to counterparts on the women’s side, and will eventually invite staff members from other sports as well. One of the barriers to entry to become a member will be ensuring that every player on a coach’s team is registered to vote.

Eventually, Maciariello envisions C4C developing community outreach initiatives. He wants the members of C4C to connect with their campus communities and put together voter registration drives for students. He wants to eventually connect with lawmakers and work on changing legislation that helps systemic racism continue to exist.

No one ever said he wasn’t ambitious.

But he knows he has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is this platform.

“I want to engage people in issues,” he said. “Educate them, empower them to change, encourage them to grow and evolve.”