Surely there’s a sporting goods store in Boca Raton, Fla., that carries Kansas Jayhawks apparel.
Rex Walters just hasn’t found it yet.
“Until I get one (KU hat) I will put this KC Royals cap in the rotation,” Walters wrote on both Twitter and Instagram, displaying a Royals cap that sits on his car dashboard.
Walters, the former KU basketball guard, just recently moved his family to Florida — where he’s owned a house since 2006, when he started a two-year stint as Florida Atlantic men’s basketball coach — from San Francisco where he coached the USF Dons the last eight seasons.
He expounded on his search for Jayhawks headgear in a phone interview with The Star.
“I can’t find me a fricking KU hat down here. My goal is getting a couple KU hats I can wear on the road,” Walters said.
In November he begins his first season as head coach of the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Drive in the NBA Development League — a no-frills league that has teams travel by bus to some games and take commercial flights to others.
“We (family members) still talk about how much we loved living in Lawrence and hopefully some day we can get back,” Walters added.
The 1993 KU grad — he was leading scorer on KU’s ’93 Final Four team — will be going it alone in Michigan, leaving behind his wife, Deanna, a Lenexa native, and their children, who happen to be accomplished young athletes.
Daughter Addison Walters is a sophomore at CSU Bakersfield, where she is the reigning Western Athletic Conference freshman basketball player of the year.
“She played a lot more than I did my freshman year at Northwestern,” said Walters, who played for the Wildcats two years before transferring to KU.
His second oldest child is Rex Jr. (known as Drew), a 6-3, 220-pound high school senior football tight end/tackle/long snapper who plays basketball as well. He’s told dad he wants to apply for admission to KU.
Then there’s daughter Riley, a high school freshman who is an accomplished age-group gymnast; son Gunner, a seventh-grader already playing varsity basketball and 8-year-old Ace, who is just getting started in various sports.
“It was really tough two years ago when the Royals were playing the Giants (in World Series),” Walters said. “My daughter was wearing her Bo Jackson T-shirt. My wife was wearing straight KC Royals stuff. I was trying to be politically correct (as USF coach). My family … they definitely are Jayhawk proud and definitely were rooting for the Royals.”
Walters is about to begin coaching a pro team, himself, after 10 years in the college ranks where he compiled a 126-125 record at San Francisco and 31-33 mark at Florida Atlantic.
“At the end of the day I was a college coach. It’s trying to develop young men as opposed to now I’m trying to develop pros,” Walters said. The Grand Rapids Drive organization is affiliated with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
“There will still be some player development stuff, personal development stuff.
“We don’t want guys in the D-League for 15 years. We want to develop our guys and give them a chance to be NBA guys or make more money. It’s about doing things within the confines of the Pistons program, the way they do things.”
Walters, 46, could use this position as a springboard to an NBA job.
“I mean I’m so far away from it. I’ve got so much to learn. Obviously that’s an ultimate goal,” Walters said. “If it happens, good. If it doesn’t happen, I know what kind of coach I am and know what kind of job I can do. I have a lot to learn before I can start thinking about those types of things. We’ll see where this thing goes from here.”
He said his years in college basketball were gratifying.
“I did a count the other day. I think we had over 48 players in my 13 years as a coach (including an assistant at Valparaiso) go on to play professional basketball. I’m proud of that,” Walters said. “In my time at USF we had only three players who used up all their eligibility that didn’t graduate.
“We won 20 games twice, the first time (it happened) in 30 plus years at USF. We went to three postseason tournaments. We didn’t get to the Big Dance. When you’ve got Gonzaga, BYU and St Mary’s in your league it gets really tough. I was surprised when I was let go. That hurt. It’s never fun to get let go, to get fired, but the relationships with the players … I was hard on them, held them to a high standard and we’ve maintained relationships with many of them,” added Walters, who does not discount a return to college coaching.
For now … he’s hoping to coach some Jayhawks in the future. The NBADL draft is Oct. 30. A special open tryout will be held Oct. 8 in Grand Rapids.
“You always want to recruit great programs,” Walters said. “Obviously Bill (Self) has done an unbelievable job. I’m sure there are guys on the radar. I don’t think any Kansas guys are going to the open tryout that I know of. If they want to go, it’d be great to see them.”