By Melanie Evans – Rivera
To see Allan Houston surrounded by fans clamoring for an autograph is not unusual even though he retired from professional basketball in 2005. He still stands as a true New York Knicks fan favorite and is, of course, the current Assistant General Manager of the team. What is perhaps more unusual is to see Alice Kean Houston, Allan’s mother, being pressed for her signature, but that is exactly what happened at the recent Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame induction.
Alice Kean Houston was not only in attendance to watch her son become an inductee, but also to represent her own late father, Allan’s grandfather, Coach William Kean as he was inducted as well. Coach William is the state’s all-time winningest high school coach.
Many of Allan Houston’s fans are aware that his father Wade was Allan’s coach at the University of Tennessee. Wade was the first African-American head coach in the Southeastern Conference. They are less aware, however, of Coach Kean’s impressive record, not only as a high school coach but also as an advocate for the civil rights movement at one of its most difficult times.
Over the course of his coaching career at Central High School, which spanned 1922 through 1958 (the year of his passing), Coach Kean’s record with the Yellow Jackets was an extraordinary 856-83. He and his teams won five state championships in the Kentucky Basketball League and captured four titles in the National Negro High School Tournament. Off the court he was a pioneer of the concept of desegregated athletics in the State of Kentucky.
Over 30 years later, Coach Kean’s grandson would attend Ballard High School, lead his team to a state title in his junior year and win the state’s Mr. Basketball honors. These are the achievements for which Allan was inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame alongside his grandfather.
Understanding more about Allan Houston’s basketball lineage and his grandfather’s legacy reinforces the importance of fathers and strong male role models. Speaking with a local newspaper, the Hardin County News Enterprise, about the importance of the evening, Allan summed it up like this “I know we were just doing what God gave us the gift to do and there were so many people who supported us and taught us those life lessons. So that’s why this is so special to me. It’s not about winning a state championship but really, it’s about sitting next to my mom and being able to represent our family.”