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“Coach Ty is a very interesting character,” Whitney Young senior Paul White said of the leader of the Dolphins. “He is someone who you can just absolutely enjoy talking to. And the next thing when you get into practice and he is just going at you constantly over and over again, you know at the end of the day it is for your well-being but at that moment you are just like ... [sighs]. But coach Ty is a great person, a great coach and just someone great overall.”
This dynamic is a normal experience for most coach-athlete relationships. The rather fun-loving, approachable persona off the court and then the transformation into the demanding, seemingly uncompromising force yelling for you to get on the baseline and run sprints until you feel faint from the lack of oxygen reaching your brain. A vivid visual nonetheless but one many athletes can attest to. This distinctive balance has been a successful approach for the prestigious Dolphins, sitting at 9-4 on the season. And with their last state championship being in 2009, coach Ty feels the players he has now coupled with their remarkable athletic talents have a high chance of bringing a state title back home.
“Every year we go into the campaign with the same objective and the same agenda and that is to win a state championship. I mean we have been dethroned from that possibility the last few years by a very good Simeon team and there is no question about it, those five young men went on to play Division-I basketball and some others before that who went on to play Division-I,” coach Ty said with one of the more memorable athletes more than likely being Duke’s Jabari Parker, now averaging 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in just his rookie season.
“Every year we felt good about our opportunities, and there is no less optimism this year. We feel really good about it,” he went on to say. “We have three young people that are returning that have played 99 percent of their varsity minutes here for the time that they have been at Whitney Young. So we feel good.
“Now with that being said, the opposition is still stiff. You have to go out to every game that is put before you and go out and execute on those given days. If we go out and do the things we are capable of doing and that we believe we can do then we really will be successful.”
Over the years, coach Ty Slaughter has developed positive relationships with each of his young players. But the three seniors — Jahlil Okafor, Miles Reynolds and Paul White — have benefited the most under his reign. This trio has been playing as a unit since their freshman year of high school. And while some athletes juggle a few different choices on where to attend high school, the choice to attend Young was a decision that didn’t take much convincing according to Okafor.
“When I was in seventh grade deciding to come to Whitney Young because my dad wanted me to come here just because the academics were so great here. I spoke with him and we instantly hit it off. I played with him the next year in eighth grade when I was with Ferrari, the AAU team. I built a great relationship with him and I’ve always known that I was going to be here at Whitney Young,” Okafor confirmed.
“Coach Ty has been great to me,” he continued. “He was giving me the best advice when I was going through the stressful recruiting process. In the end he was the person I came to just about every day getting his input and telling me not to get too involved with the emotions, not trying to hurt feelings and stuff like that. I love coach Ty, and he has really helped me become the person I am today.”
Reynolds chimed in saying, “That’s like my big brother-slash-father. He is always there for me when I need him or when I’m not feeling so hot or in a slump, he is always there to pick me up. And then even when I am playing well he is always encouraging me to do better. If there was anything I ever needed from coach Ty, he always supplied it for me, and that is why I have so much great respect for him.”
While Okafor and Reynolds without a doubt had seamless relationships with Slaughter, White spoke of a different dynamic, one that in turn made him the successful young man he is today.
“We kind of have a love-hate relationship, but at the end of the day it is always love. But sometimes when we get into practice me and him just because I feel like I know a lot of about the game, me and him kind of ...” White said with a slight pause. “But I understand he wants the best for me. Sometimes I may not be providing a whole lot of what he may want from me. I respect that from him. But I will always understand that coach Ty is just going to be that person that at the end of the day is going to be there for us. But it’s because we have two strong personalities. But at the end of the day he is going to be my coach, my mentor, and one of my friends.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say butt heads because I wouldn’t talk back or nothing like that. But coach Ty is someone who expects a whole lot out of you. And coach Ty is someone — he really doesn’t have much of a filter, so if he feels a certain way then he is going to let you know,” White said with a laugh. “And that is something that I truly respect out of him. It is nice to have a coach who is not going to sugarcoat anything but will tell you exactly what you need to work on. I am appreciative of that.”
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Slaughter has undoubtedly proven his worth in the coaching ranks, sending countless players along to fulfill their collegiate aspirations. But interestingly enough he has actually never played basketball competitively, starting first in baseball then transitioning into the sport he has grown to cherish.
“I’ve always coached. I’ve coached some sort of team sport since I was 15 years old. I first started in baseball and then after all the young people stopped playing baseball and starting playing basketball, I just kind of eased over to basketball. But to coach at Whitney Young, I absolutely never in my wildest dreams thought that I would have any opportunity to coach at a place like Whitney Young with the prestige that it has academically and the history that it has had athletically. But having got the opportunity, I cherish every day of it. And I thank God that he chose me and I happened to be here.”
With such a vast imprint left on the program, it was surprising to learn that in the distant future Slaughter would like to hang up his whistle to pursue other endeavors, though choosing not to take his wisdom and experience to the college level saying, “No I don’t think so. I think that in this stage in my life I don’t think that is something I am prepared mentally nor physically or emotionally to do. I don’t know how much longer this will go on. I am close to the end with this and I have enjoyed this. There is no other place I would rather coach from a high school perspective than Whitney Young. It is absolutely, fundamentally the greatest job in high school basketball because it is a place where you have this and that, not this or that. We have tremendous academics and we are at depths in winning in the classroom and our kids take that same level of commitment to the basketball and athletic fields. And for me, how much longer this will be for me, I don’t know. But it is coming to an end. There are other things I would like to do in my life and coaching just may not be one of them, definitely not from a head-coaching perspective.”
And while his time at Young is now surely winding down, leaving the program on a high note is the only way Slaughter wishes to be remembered.