In its infancy as an American Basketball Association team, the Tampa Bay Rain has tapped a head coach steep in professional basketball experience. Born as Wayne Monte Rollins but known to all as Tree Rollins, the true former NBA 7-footer will serve as the Rain’s head coach. Rollins spent 18 years in the NBA.
A father of three, Rollins, 56, was born in Bartow, Fl. His single mother moved the family to Cordele, Ga. where she raised her six children. Rollins played his college ball at Clemson University before being drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks in 1977. Known as the intimidator, Rollins played with the Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and
the Orlando Magic. In Orlando he served as a player and coach assistant from 1994-1995.
“Shaq got hurt and while I was an assistant coach at the time, they asked me if I would play as well,” Rollins said.
Rollins has solid coaching and basketball management experience as well. In addition to working with the Magic, he coached with the Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers and in 2008 was the interim head coach of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. He was the president and general manger of the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels and the Southern Georgia 36ers.
His latest coaching stint is being spent with Tampa's newest basketball team - The Tampa Bay Rain.
At the Mac Center in Odessa last Friday and Saturday, Rollins had the duty of watching about 40 young basketball players yearning for one of the spots on the Rain’s roster. The Rain’s preseason begins in October. They'll play homegames at The Florida Fairground Expo Hall.
Westchase Patch caught up with Rollins for a quick Q&A Friday before he starts the tryouts.
Patch: Why is this good opportunity for you right now?
Rollins: I met the owner (Stephen) Davis and came over to introduce the Tampa Bay area to the ABA because I was familiar with the ABA from my days with the Kentucky Colonels. Time passed after that meeting and his launch of the Tampa Bay Rain. Steve shot me an email and asked if there was anyone I knew who would want to be coach. I didn’t know if the distance would be too much for me, driving back and forth, and didn’t even consider it...so I searched around, had one guy who took another job and another guy went back to his original job in college …I’m introducing these guys as coach and I’m thinking you better be able to coach. I’d been seriously looking to get into college basketball coaching and had not been able to crack it. Had a few offers here and there but I was not really let me in. But I love basketball and have been doing it all my adult life.... basketball is basketball to me, whether it’s the Tamp Bay Rain, Washington Mystics or the Orlando Magic. For me as a coaching point of view it’s basketball. It’s strategies, discipline and getting guys to compete.
Patch: What’s your coaching philosophy?
Rollins: You pick your players and see what you got and then develop your strategy from that.
Patch: What do you look for when you look for a player?
Rollins: I believe to build a good team to be able to compete, a good heady point guard is needed and a big guy to throw the ball to, or a good post up guy. People don’t remember but Nick Anderson was your post-up guy who you would go to and get to the foul line but then Shaquille O’Neil came in. But you have to have somebody to throw the ball to. You have to have a post up guy.
Patch: What does basketball mean to you?
Rollins: I don’t want to say it means everything because I have family and friends, but career wise, it means everything. I have to name the places I haven’t been when it comes to where basketball has taken me and I was able to see my mother live a better life. I’ll coach for a million dollars or $2 as long as it’s not going to affect me in a negative way. I love basketball. I love to hear the squeak of the sneakers and being able to compete. As a coach, to show other players how to compete is rewarding. That’s what I love is that I can now teach other guys how to play professional basketball.