In the three years as Derrick Gordon’s basketball coach at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey, Kevin Boyle says he had his suspicions about Gordon’s sexuality. But Boyle, now the coach at prep powerhouse Montverde Academy near Orlando, Fla., says that never affected the way he viewed his star guard.
“I feel that it’s something that I kind of looked at as a possibility, that it was possible that he might be gay, and I’m glad for him that he’s able to say that and not feel the pressure of hiding,” Boyle told FOXSports.com Wednesday morning.
“He said a weight was off his shoulders in his [TV] interview, and I’m happy for him. I think in society today, most people are accepting of people and people’s choices, and even though there will be some people who are jerks who say things now and then at games, I think 85 percent of people will receive it favorably.”
Boyle said he received a text from Gordon Wednesday morning after Gordon came out publicly, but was unable to reach him when he called to speak to him about the news, which he said was surprising, but not shocking.
“At that high school age when boys are really starting to chase the girls, looking at them, talking about them, those were conversations that he just kind of shied away from,” Boyle said. “That doesn’t mean you’re gay, but it wouldn’t surprise me when you’re a good-looking kid who girls like, and this and that, and he didn’t seem that interested. You didn’t know for sure, but you knew it was a possibility.”
Gordon began his college career at Western Kentucky — he started and played 36 minutes in an NCAA tournament game against Kentucky, which featured former St. Patrick’s teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — then transferred to Massachusetts after his freshman season. Boyle said he has followed Gordon’s career since he graduated from St. Patrick’s and never felt like Gordon’s sexuality affected his play.
“He averaged almost 10 points a game as a starter for UMass in one of the best leagues in America,” Boyle said. “You’d have to ask him, but personally I don’t think it’s impacted his play that much.
“Obviously it’s stressful that you’re uncomfortable in saying who you really are, and when you’re going through a lot of stress, sometimes it does affect you (in games). But sometimes people thrive in stressful situations and it’s their release, being on the court.”
Boyle described Gordon as a kid who was “quiet, but not real quiet,” in high school and said he was “the type of kid you’d be really proud to have as a son.”
Indeed, Gordon told ESPN that his mother and father were supportive in the wake of his revelation. His fraternal twin, Darryl, however, took a couple of days to come around.
But in the hours after his announcement, Gordon was immediately bolstered with statements of support from far and wide, including one from his St. Patrick’s teammate Kidd-Gilchrist.
"Derrick was a great teammate and is an even better friend. I admire his courage and willingness to share his story," the Bobcats forward said Wednesday in a statement. "Just as we supported each other on the court, I am proud to support him now."
But Gordon’s news may be met with resistance by plenty of others as well — whether they’re fellow players, opposing coaches or fans — but Boyle said he believes Gordon is tough enough to take the criticism.
“I don’t think he’ll overreact or it will get him where he’s going into crowds to address anybody,” Boyle said. “I think he’ll just let it blow over, and I think we’ll all be surprised [at how little heckling he receives] because I don’t think there will be too many people who make statements like that. I think that, today, more people are open to it.”
And the hope, Boyle says, is that a positive reaction to Gordon may help others in his situation feel more OK with coming out.
“Any time you have an issue that is brought to light that, for a lot of years, people wouldn’t bring up, I’m sure that for (another) kid who is in that situation, it might help him,” Boyle said. “Other kids in that situation might want to see how Derrick is received by crowds, the media and teammates, and if he’s received in a good light, it might make it easier for them to come forward and be more comfortable and lift the weight off their shoulders.”