Building from the ground up
Catching up with Kevin Gamble
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- He was a pure professional who came to play every night.
That's exactly what the Boston Celtics received when they signed Kevin Gamble as a free agen from the CBA in 1988.
"The Celtics were one team I didn't think would call, and it was very surprising when they did. I heard so much about them and all the championships and the hall of famers that were there," Gamble said.
"I had some nerves going into it and did not know what to expect from those guys because they had been there and won championships before. Once I got there I learned what kind of players they were and what kind of people they were. They just wanted to win ball games and it didn't matter who was on the court as long as they won."
Gamble played seven seasons with the Celtics from 1988 through 1994, averaging double figures during four of those seasons. For three consecutive seasons, from 1990-1993, Gamble played in all 82 games.
"I took pride in showing up every night and strapping them up and playing," said Gamble. "I think a lot of players take a lot of pride trying to be healthy and play games at that level. Everybody has aches and pains and bumps and bruises. I learned from some of the great players with (Larry) Bird, (Kevin) McHale, and Dennis Johnson. You saw them in the training room getting worked on, but they strapped them up and went out."
Gamble went on to play three more seasons in the NBA after the Celtics - one with the Miami Heat and two with the Sacramento Kings.
After retiring from the NBA, Gamble returned to his hometown of Springfield, Ill., where he formed his own real estate development company, PitGam Enterprises, Inc., with Mike Pittman, another former local athlete. PitGam is heavily involved in the development of Springfield's east side community.
"We do the commercial leases and lease buildings to the state of Illinois, strip malls and Fortune 500 companies," said Gamble. "We knew some people who were involved in real estate and thought it would be a good opportunity to get involved in something like that. It's a good business and it takes a lot of work."
Currently, Gamble resides in Springfield with his wife, Alesha, their son Kevin, Jr., who will turn eight at the end of this month, and their daughter Averi, five.
Two years ago, Gamble became the men's basketball coach at the University of Illinois at Springfield in the American Midwest Conference (NAIA).
Gamble is the first head coach in the college's history as they just started up their basketball program.
"I bumped into the chancellor and he told me they were bringing basketball to the University and asked me if I would be interested," said Gamble. "I said yes and thought it would be a great opportunity.
"It's close to home and to get some coaching experience at a smaller school when I had no coaching experience I thought was a good fit for me. I'm learning a lot and it is exciting to build your own program from the ground up. I've been having fun; basketball is where my heart is."
Gamble uses the experience of coaching in his hometown, as well as his NBA fame, to help reach out to the community. He recently spoke to fourth and fifth graders at a local elementary school.
"People know that I played at the ultimate level and I try to give back," said Gamble. "I try to talk to the kids about education and making the right choices in life. When I can go out and say things to kids and maybe help a few of them and steer them in the right direction that's what it's all about."
It's not surprising that Gamble has returned home and continues to give back to the community where he grew up.
That's exactly the type of person the Boston Celtics signed as a free agent in 1988.
If you would like to hear where a former New England Sports Star is these days, please e-mail Jon Goode at firstname.lastname@example.org