Change the culture.
Freshman Ernie Chatman has been hearing those three words practically every morning since early September. His father, Joe, whispers the words in to his ear as they go through their morning shooting and dribbling workouts, all in an effort to improve Ernie’s game.
It’s not too bad for his father either; Joe’s been able to watch Ernie benefit from the morning workouts from the assistant coach's seat on English’s bench. The city league's leading scorer and his father have helped guide English to a state qualifying 10-7 overall record.
“I want him to do it because he wants to do it,” Joe Chatman said. “I played and I did things on my own and that’s how you get better. You get better when nobody else is watching.”
While some of English’s other key players have participated in the workouts, Ernie is there with his father everyday. It’s a morning ritual the father and son have built since Ernie was just 7-years-old.
It was at that age when his mother, being a huge Allen Iverson fan, gave the potential point guard early exposure to the sport Ernie now calls his craft. While Ernie calls the former NBA star his hero, he credits his father for everything he’s been able to do on the court.
“Everything we work on, I try and bring it to the game,” Ernie said.
The freshman added that one of his best moves, his cross over, was modeled not off of Iverson, but off of his father.
“A lot kids don’t understand that what you do with your right hand, which is most kids dominant hand, you have to be able to do with your left,” said Joe, a former UMASS Lowell and BC High point guard. “That’s what separates him from most guards.”
This is just one of the many advanced parts of Ernie’s game that has come from his father’s hard coaching style. Based off the amount of times the assistant coach confronts his son in their games, one may think Ernie has it easy.
However, Joe said this is just not the case.
“I’m so hard on him off the court that when we get on the court, he knows what I expect of him so I find myself a lot of times just telling him something once and him being able to do it,” Joe said “That just comes from years and years of being coached.”
This in no way has made Ernie invincible to his father’s intense coaching during practice.
“Do I sometimes get on him a little more than everybody else? Yes, and that’s only natural only because I expect more of him but I never single him out and he never gets special treatment,” Joe said.
It’s only Joe’s second year on the coaching staff at English, however, he’s been coaching his son for the past four years on his AAU team, the Boston Spartans. While there might have been a time Ernie wasn’t used to his father’s hard coaching, the guard has had practically his entire life to realize its positive effect.
“It used to bother me because I used to think he would pick on me but now I see he’s just trying to encourage me and get me ready for the next level,” Ernie said. “I used to think it was a bad thing, now I think it’s a good thing.”
The fact that Joe has never forced Ernie to play basketball has also helped ease the relationship. Ever since Ernie first saw some of those Allen Iverson highlights, the two both confirmed that all of the extra work between the father and son is at Ernie’s request.
“Because I coach him so hard, because I work with him so hard, other people misconstrue the fact or think that I force him. No, he does that on his own. He’s been doing that since he was 5 or 6 years old,” Joe said.
Of course, Ernie entering English this year motivated Joe to take the basketball program’s assistant coaching job. But coaching his son means much more to the man who didn’t have a father figure in his life while growing up.
“It means everything to me,” said Joe, who credits his mother for her strong single parenting. “I want him to feel like he always has a positive influence in his life, a male influence. I’m his best friend in that regard.”
While Joe has loved coaching at English so far, being a father as well as a coach can come with its challenges. One of them came two weeks ago when Joe was made aware his son had gotten in trouble in school for his behavior.
Instead of playing his son, whom he could have since Ernie still met the team’s GPA requirement, Joe and English’s head coach Barry Robinson suspended Ernie for two games. The games were against Dorchester and West Roxbury, two games that if won could have put English in contention with Dorchester for a spot in the city tournament.
“I just wanted to prove to him more so as a dad that I don’t care if I’m your head coach or not. This is the consequence of not taking the academic piece as serious as you should,” Joe said.
A lot of freshman could have regressed after that. However, during his hiatus Ernie couldn’t keep away from the game. Instead of lingering on his punishment, the freshman went to scout future competition at other city games, counting the days until his return. When that day finally came last Tuesday, the freshman propelled English to a state qualifying win over O’Bryant with 18 points.
“I just take advantage of having my father as a coach and being the best coach that he is,” Ernie said. “Not a lot of other kids can have that and I’m fortunate to have that in my life.”
As English gets closer to the postseason, the father and son duo will continue to wake up at 5 a.m. each morning and work out until Ernie’s first class. They will continue to have a positive effect on each other while trying to “change the culture” of Boston English sports in a positive way.
The two agree basketball has a bright future at English. The two agree that Ernie’s basketball potential will be key for that future. The two also agree that Ernie’s grades will take precedence over that potential.
The only thing they can’t seem to agree on is who beats who more in one-on-one's.
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.