As It Happens

Steph Curry's Toronto high school coach is rooting for the Warriors in the NBA Finals

James Lackey might be one of the only people in the Greater Toronto Area on who won't be rooting for the Raptors when they take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals on Thursday.

The Warriors star player played for the Queensway Christian College Saints in 2001 and 2002

James Lackey (top right) with his 2001 Queensway Christian College boys' baskteball team featuring future NBA stars Steph Curry (top row, second from the right) and his brother Seth Curry (bottom row, third from the right). (Submitted by James Lackey)
Listen5:34

Transcript

James Lackey might be one of the only people in the Greater Toronto Area who won't be rooting for the Raptors when they take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals on Thursday.

The high school basketball coach says he loves his hometown team — but his true loyalty is to Warriors point guard Stephen (Steph) Curry.

Lackey coached a young Curry on the Queensway Christian College Saints boys' basketball team in 2001 and 2002. The future NBA star lived in Toronto for two years while his father Dell Curry played for the Raptors. 

Lackey, who now coaches at Brampton Christian School, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about the Raptors' history-making entry into the NBA Finals and his own mixed feelings about who to cheer for.

Here is part of their conversation.

Do you remember that day when you were told that there's a new student and his dad was there? Tell us about that.

Oh, I remember it like it was yesterday. It's a once in a lifetime moment. The school secretary called down to the phys-ed office and she said, "You have to come down right away. Dell Curry is here and he's enrolling his children in the school."

We were such a tiny little school. I couldn't believe that someone like Dell Curry would choose our school to put his kids in.

I ran down to the gym office and got to meet Dell and got to meet Stephen for the first time.

OK, but you were the basketball coach, and you were expecting you're going to see some tall and promising looking character who is going to get to be on your team. What did you see?

I mean, Dell Curry was maybe 6-6 or 6-7 so I figured when I heard that his son was in Grade 8, you know, in my mind I was imagining maybe someone 6-2 or 6-3.

And when I met Stephen, here he was this tiny little guy, maybe five-foot-three or five-foot-four at the tallest.

I was, to be honest, a little disappointed. But that disappointment soon went away as soon as I saw him playing.

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors will face off against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals on Thursday. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

And what did you see when he was playing?

Oh, he was just unbelievable. I had never seen a kid that age with such knowledge of the game. I mean, he could shoot even back then from just about anywhere on the court. If you left him open even for a second, you knew it was going to be going in. He was just an incredible player, a great passer.

All the things that you see even today, he was already doing that back 15, 20 years ago.

There's one particular game you have mentioned [in the Toronto Star] where you told the boys ... that they weren't going to do it. What happened?

We had an undefeated season and we were playing against this really good Toronto team. We were down by maybe six or seven points with a minute left to go.

So I just called a time-out as a learning experience just to prepare the boys. You know, they hadn't lost yet, and just to say, "Hey, let's be good sports whether we win or lose and shake hands and keep your heads up."

And Stephen just stopped me right in the middle of my speech and he said, "We are not going to lose this game."

And he said, "Give me the ball and we will win."

So I said, "Alright, guys, that's the play. Anytime you get the ball, pass to Stephen."

The next 60 seconds were something I don't think I'll ever see again. He was shooting from everywhere. I don't think he missed a single shot. And we were down by six or seven points, and we ended up winning by six or seven points.

It was the most dramatic turnaround I had ever seen.

The 2001 Queensway Christian College boys' basketball team featured brothers Steph and Seth Curry, who both went on to be professional NBA players. (Submitted by James Lackey)

What was it like for the boys at that moment?

I think they were all just standing there in awe. Even myself as a coach, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

There was quite a large crowd there, and the frenzy that was taking place was unbelievable because I don't think anyone in the gym had ever seen something like that before.

He would have been 13 years old.

I mean, here you have this strong relationship, this strong support for Stephen Curry. And yet, how do you feel about seeing the Raptors square off against him?

It's certainly mixed emotions. I mean, being from Toronto, I am certainly glad that the Raptors are there. But, boy, I have been cheering for Stephen, of course, ever since he was 14 years old.

I don't think I want to tell too many people this, but I think I'll be cheering for Stephen and the Warriors this time around.

Really? How can you do that? I mean, you'll have to be alone in your living room.

I keep that information sort of quiet and I hope you don't give out my home address over the radio.

Tomorrow we are going to be interviewing one of [Raptors small forward] Kawhi Leonard's high school basketball coaches. Do you have any message to pass to him?

I think he would probably feel the same way that I do. Just a sense of pride to see a young man that you have coached go on to become such an elite-level athlete. It's what every coach dreams of for their kids.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Ashley Mak. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.