College Basketball Insider

Is Keelon Lawson now the nation's top assistant coaching candidate?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Keelon Lawson is a former college basketball player turned state-championship winning high school coach who doubles as the father of three elite prospects scheduled to graduate in the next five years.

The first part of that sentence makes him a candidate for college assistant jobs.

The second part, combined with the first, has created legitimate interest this month.

Multiple sources have told CBSSports.com that Keelon Lawson interviewed for a spot on staff at a high-major program earlier this week. No offer was made -- and Keelon Lawson, when asked, declined to discuss specifics. But in an exclusive interview with CBSSports.com, the 44-year-old head coach at Hamilton High in Memphis acknowledged that the experience has opened his eyes to the reality of maybe joining his three sons in college, and Keelon Lawson made it clear that his plan is now to do that, if possible, one way or another.

"If [a college] hires a second or third assistant, what can they bring to the table?" Lawson said. "If you hire me, I'm automatically bringing you top-20 players in the country. Automatically. There are coaches sitting on benches right now who can't do that."

The Lawson brothers, detailed in a column here, are K.J. Lawson, Dedric Lawson and Chandler Lawson, and each could become a McDonald's All-American. K.J. Lawson, a 6-foot-7 wing, is ranked No. 32 nationally in the Class of 2015 by 247Sports. Dedric Lawson, a 6-9 forward, is ranked No. 5 nationally in the Class of 2016 by 247Sports. Chandler Lawson, a 6-6 wing, is ranked No. 1 nationally in the Class of 2019 by Future150.com.

All three are set, in August, to move to Jacksonville, Fla., and enroll at a basketball powerhouse called Arlington Country Day, where Keelon Lawson has already agreed to become an assistant coach under Rex Morgan. Jacksonville is roughly 700 miles from Memphis, and Keelon Lawson said that's important to note because some have asked how far he and his sons would be willing to go from Memphis for college, and, he thinks, he's already proved, by committing to moving to Jacksonville, that distance from Memphis isn't an issue. His only desire is that the family stay together, point being that if he's working in Memphis it makes sense for his sons to attend college in Memphis, but if he's working somewhere else it would make sense for his sons to attend college somewhere else ... especially if he happens to be on staff somewhere else.

Yes, K.J. Lawson committed to Josh Pastner's Memphis Tigers last October. But Keelon Lawson indicated that would change if he lands a college job outside of Memphis.

"With loyalty to Josh, I would ask K.J., 'Would you want to stay [with Memphis] or would you want to go with me and Dedric?'" Keelon Lawson said. "But with us being a close-knit family, you know what the answer would be. He would say, 'Dad, I'm going with you.' So, of course, K.J. would go with me, and then Dedric, and then Chandler."

Translation: The school that hires Keelon Lawson will get three possible McDonald's All-Americans in a five-year span. That's the simplest way to describe this situation.

The fact that Larry Brown once hired Danny Manning's father, John Calipari once hired Dajuan Wagner's father, Bill Self once hired Mario Chalmers' father, and Billy Kennedy once hired J'Mychal Reese's father serves as proof that there's nothing unprecedented about men getting jobs based, in part, on the talents of their sons. Still, Keelon Lawson realizes some might question a school hiring him under these circumstances, but he insists those questions are unfair. As Lawson pointed out, his credentials as a former college player (at UAB and LeMoyne-Owen) who is now a successful high school coach make him a legitimate option for any staff. Beyond that, former UCLA coach Ben Howland once hired an AAU coach from Atlanta named Korey McCray, which led to two prospects from Atlanta (Jordan Adams and Tony Parker) committing to the Bruins. Dalonte Hill was first hired at Charlotte by Bobby Lutz, then at Kansas State by Bob Huggins, for no other reason than his connection to Michael Beasley. Baylor's Scott Drew once hired an AAU coach named Dwon Clifton in an attempt to secure a commitment from John Wall, and, predictably, Clifton wasn't employed at Baylor long after Wall instead enrolled at Kentucky.

Bottom line, this happens at the high-major level.

Keelon Lawson now understands it could happen for him, too.

"There are a whole lot of AAU coaches across the country who get jobs off of players who are not their kids," Keelon Lawson said. "So why shouldn't I benefit from it instead of somebody else? I don't see anything wrong with it."


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
 
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