(Memphis) When he wasn’t leading his team on the hardwood, Lionel Hollins could be found in the community doing something to give back.
We caught up with him a few years ago handing out school backpacks to young men at JIFF, Juvenile Intervention and Faith Based Followup.
JIFF Program Director, Kevin Williams, says Hollins didn’t just bring items, he told his life story to young men trying to straighten out their own lives, “They were able to relate to him and again all that did was spark hope in these young men and let them know if you can do it so can I.”
While many don’t understand the business behind the decision to let Hollins go, they understand the difference Hollins made.
He showed up with his players at a Walmart to bag groceries and greet fans.
It’s why many rallied this past weekend with hopes of keeping the coach.
Marron Thomas recalled Hollins’ work with his Youth Empowerment Program in Frayser, “He spoke with our kids and the media was out there once and he told the cameras to stop rolling because he really wanted to have a heart to heart with our kids.”
That connection is what Hollins stressed talking to young people.
“They are human beings that have talent. They can help us as a society if we help them reach their potential,” Hollins told us as he talked to JIFF students in 2011.
JIFF officials say Hollins showed young men what JIFF has stressed since it started 10 years ago, the importance of giving back.
He was coaching on and off the court.
“He unified the city because of his admiration, his motivation for a winning team, because it was a win-win for all of us,” says Williams.