The New York Rens, a Nike sponsored AAU team has been creating a ton of buzz on and off the court. The Rens recently added an orange patch to all of their jerseys. The patch is to raise awareness for gun violence. Rens players and the director of the program, Andy Borman, have been interviewed by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and many others about the importance of the patch. I was lucky enough to talk to Coach Borman about the patch, and his other basketball experiences.
Coach Borman has coached and played at every level, including playing for the legendary Coach K at Duke for four years, where he attended two final fours, including winning a national championship in 2001. He also played and coached at the renowned prep school IMG Academy, in Florida.
The idea for the patch first came up a couple of years ago, when the NY Rens players were hanging out in a hotel, while at a tournament. The players were talking about the loved ones they have lost to gun violence. They decided they wanted to raise awareness about the issue, so they took their ideas to the Director of their AAU program, Andy Borman. Borman did research on what the organization could do to make a long lasting impact, he told me “we didn’t want to do a tournament where you only think about it for a weekend, then you move on with your life.” So he found the orange patch. Borman said that he came to the conclusion that putting the patch on the jersey would make the longest impact and reach the biggest audience. Then Borman reached out to Nike to make sure it was okay to put the patch on their jersey, and they were very supportive…and the rest is history. Borman says he gets calls from many other basketball organizations for his permission to put the patch on their jersey, which couldn’t make him happier, because the point of this was to raise awareness about an important issue and “to reach as many people as possible.”
Borman’s determination to make this happen for his players came from his days at Duke, and his aspirations to be his version of Coach K. I asked him from a player’s perspective, what makes Coach K so special? He said, “Its that he truly cares about you as a person,” and he went on to say that every decision he makes ties back to Coach K, and his days at Duke. Hence the decision to “truly care” about what his players want from a personal standpoint, and making something happen for them.
One of the things that stuck with me most from the interview was when Coach Borman told me that, “97% of what I do on a daily basis is because of Coach K, the other 3% is to make sure I’m still my own person.”
It’s really amazing the traction the orange patch has gotten, not only on the AAU circuit, but beyond the world of basketball. The impact and the message of awareness has been tremendous. The Rens and Coach Borman truly care about their players and it comes from Borman’s aspirations to be the best coach, mentor and director he can be, and in his eyes, it’s making choices just like Coach K would.