Lakewood’s Anthony Lawrence invests in his own kids, players

The Pinellas basketball coach doesn't just teach the game, but life lessons.
Lakewood High School basketball coach Anthony Lawrence, center, poses with his daughter Taylor, 26, and Anthony II, 23.
Lakewood High School basketball coach Anthony Lawrence, center, poses with his daughter Taylor, 26, and Anthony II, 23. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
Published June 20, 2020

This Father’s Day, we reached out to a number of our sports landscape’s prominent African-American dads to talk about the ongoing quest for racial equality. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Anthony Lawrence Sr. is no stranger to having tough conversations with his two children, son Anthony II, 23, and daughter Taylor, 26. The Lakewood High School boys basketball coach of 10 years has been around the game his entire life, helping his son achieve a collegiate and professional career in the sport as well.

“You know, as a father, this impacts me because you think about your children. My children. And then when I see something happen in the news where these guys get shot, I’m thinking about that’s somebody’s child. There’s a father that is devastated because that child is killed, you know, a mother or auntie. Not only is that person gone, but you totally devastated that father, that mother, that family. We have to be more empathetic towards one another.

“My kids are my whole world, and so the conversations that I’ve had with them, we just talked (last Sunday), about being a good person. And this is something that I pushed their whole time growing up. You have to be a good person and there are a lot of things that you can’t control, but if you’re a good person, then nine times out of 10, the outcome will come out in your favor.

“My kids have been the best thing in the world for me. The conversations that we have as far as being a good person and also the safety part of it is when you’re dealing with a police officer, take pride out of the picture and come out alive. If there’s an issue, we’ll deal with it after. But come out of this alive because we can always deal with that. But we can’t do anything if you don’t come out alive. But I think it’s a shame that as a father, an African-American father, that I have to have these conversations. It does get to the point where, when is this going to stop, you know, what is the solution?

“You don’t know what a person has been through, you don’t know what’s under that mask that they wear unless you have a serious conversation and talk to those kids. That’s why I get to know my players really well. Because in order for me to coach them, you have to get to know them. Always in passing conversations I’m asking, ‘So, where’s your dad at?’ And once you get that information, then you know how to deal with them. And you know you have to coach them hard, but you have to also teach them. As a teacher, you can become that surrogate father, and I’ve done that on multiple occasions.”