DAPHNE, Ala. — Basketball great Chuck Person’s career includes a long list of superlatives as a player and coach in the college and professional ranks, and he has recently added another important credential: college graduate.
Person, 51, associate head basketball coach at Auburn University, recently completed his Bachelor of Sport Science in sport coaching at the United States Sports Academy, earning his degree through the Academy’s online bachelor’s degree completion program.
Like many elite college players, Person in 1986 was recruited into professional basketball before completing his degree. This followed a stellar career at Auburn, where he still ranks as the leading scorer in the school’s history. After more than three decades as a player and coach, he now has his degree, which he said is vital to pursuing his dream of becoming a college head basketball coach.
“I made a promise to myself, my parents, my high school coach and my college coach to get my degree,” Person said. “The promise is fulfilled and I feel really good about that. It is also special to me that I graduated with honors.
“The United States Sports Academy has provided for me the ability to pursue a college basketball head coaching job, which is my goal,” Person said.
“College coaching allows you to teach young people how to play the game and puts you on a platform to help raise them the right way. I want to help student athletes who can make it into professional basketball, and I also want to help those who won’t go into professional basketball to complete their degrees and get into the work force.
“I really needed to attain my degree because, as a college coach, you need to tell your players that education is important and you need to have your degree to demonstrate that.
“Even though I have been coaching for many years, my education at the Academy really taught me a lot and prepared me to go further in my profession of coaching.
“I had heard so much about the Academy and what a great institution it is, especially in the area of sport science, as it gives you a broad spectrum of learning. The Academy taught me a lot in different areas in coaching: coaching methodology, coaching philosophy, strength and conditioning, nutrition, sports medicine, public relations — everything you need to know about coaching and running an organization.
“The Academy’s online program was important to me because it would have been impossible for me to be the associate head basketball coach at Auburn and attend traditional college classes at the same time. The Academy’s program allowed me to study on my own schedule and complete my classes at my own pace.
“My professors at the Academy were very engaged with me as a student and they responded with good comments and feedback. Every time I called or e-mailed my professors, they responded in a timely manner. They put a lot of thought into my questions and their responses.
“I received a great education at the United States Sports Academy.”
Person said his next goal, in addition to pursuing a college head coaching position, is to continue his education through the online master’s degree program at the Academy.
Person was a four-year letter winner at Auburn from 1982 to 1986, helping the team to three NCAA Tournament appearances in 1984, 1985, and 1986, including a trip to the Elite Eight in 1986. He also helped Auburn win the 1985 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament, for which he was named Most Valuable Player.
Person, who played for Hall of Fame Head Coach Sonny Smith and alongside fellow Auburn greats Charles Barkley and Chris Morris, is the all-time scoring leader in Auburn history, with 2,311 points in 126 games for an 18.3 points-per-game average.
Person was a two-time All-American (1985, 1986), a three-time First Team All-SEC selection and was named to ESPN’s SEC Silver Anniversary Team. He was nicknamed “The Rifleman” for his accuracy and Auburn retired his number 45 jersey in 2006.
A native of Brantley, Ala., Person was chosen by the Indiana Pacers in the 1986 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft. He played for five teams during his 13-year professional career, averaging 14.7 points per game on 46 percent shooting. In 1987 he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year while averaging 18.8 points per game for the Pacers.
Person played with the Pacers from 1986 to 1992, Minnesota Timberwolves from 1992 to 1994, San Antonio Spurs from 1994 to 1998, Charlotte Hornets from 1998 to 1999, and Seattle Supersonics from 1999 to 2000. His teams advanced to the playoffs eight times.
Following his NBA playing career, Person served as an associate head coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2001 to 2002. He worked five years for the Indiana Pacers as an assistant coach and administrator (2002-07); two years as an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings (2007-09); and four seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers (2009-13).
While working with Head Coach Phil Jackson and the Lakers, he helped NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol win the 2010 NBA Championship.
Person spent the 2013-14 season as an associate head coach for the Jeonju KCC Egis in the Korean Basketball League.
Since 2014, Person has been on the coaching staff at Auburn under Head Coach Bruce Pearl, where he currently serves as associate head coach.
Person is married to the former Carmen Sudderth and they have six children and six grandchildren.
Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.