College Sports

Why NCCU’s LeVelle Moton won’t let his basketball team wear school gear

NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton applauds his team’s performance during a game against North Carolina in 2014.
NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton applauds his team’s performance during a game against North Carolina in 2014.

N.C. Central men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton shared the stage with North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel and N.C. State’s Kevin Keatts at the Triangle men’s Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon Friday.

When coaches of any sport get together the one thing they do well is share stories. With preseason practice just around the corner, Moton talked about his new team, why his players can’t wear N.C. Central gear and the coach who had the biggest influence on his career.

Here’s what he had to say.

Honoring those who came before you

Moton must replace seven seniors from last year’s MEAC championship team. Since taking over at N.C. Central as a head coach in 2009, Moton has won three regular-season titles and two MEAC tournaments. So expectations are high every year. With what looks like a new team each season, Moton stresses to his players the importance of taking care of the program and honoring those who came before them.

As a way of doing that, Moton makes his players earn the right to wear NCCU gear during workouts.

“I don’t want to give them anything because they have the sense of entitlement for something they’ve never earned,” Moton said. “They have no N.C. Central gear, none, and they don’t get that until they complete our preseason process. That’s how we’ve done it since I arrived.”

Taking shape as a coach

When the coaches were asked who had shaped them as basketball coaches, Moton revealed that his mentor was supposed to have been at the luncheon but wasn’t.

“She was supposed to be here today, she had a hair appointment,” Moton said. “It’s my mom.”

When Moton interviewed for the head coaching job at N.C. Central, he was asked how he would run the program. The answer was simple, he would just follow the only blueprint he knew growing up.

“I said I would just run it with the same core values that my mother ran her house,” Moton said. “And that served well because she was actually my first coach.”

Moton also mentioned Ron Williams, his coach at the Raleigh Boys & Girls Club.

“He was so tough,” Moton said. “He had myself and guys like P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets) and John Wall (Washington Wizards) and one of things about him, he never gave you any credit. He taught me how to hit a baseball, taught me how to shoot a basketball, but he never told us we were good.”

On June 19, 1997, the only dose of encouragement Moton ever heard from Williams changed his life.

“He told me if I kept my head on straight I would have the opportunity to be something,” Moton recalled. “From then my confidence just lit up.”

That confidence wasn’t limited to basketball.

“I went to school the next day talking to every girl,” Moton said, drawing laughs from the audience.

Moton impressed by Tomlin

The coaches were asked to name which sport outside of basketball they like the most. Moton is a big football fan and roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Moton has said before he likes to learn by watching football coaches because of their ability to communicate and lead so many men at once.

Moton has had several chances to watch Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin up close and always walks away impressed.

“It’s such a barbaric sport,” Moton said. “And for one man to be able to manage (53) barbarians it’s unreal. How he commands the room when he walks in and manages people and build relationships, I’ve been extremely blessed to form that relationship.”

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV