Nobody played more minutes or hit more shots in a South Carolina men's basketball uniform than Alex English. The former All-American under legendary coach Frank McGuire went on to star in the NBA and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997. After working as an NBA assistant coach and broadcast analyst, English will be seen at his alma mater serving as the television analyst for South Carolina's home games aired on SEC Network+, the digital broadcast platform of the new network.
"When I did it with the Denver Nuggets, I was doing it from the perspective of a player," English said of his previous broadcast work. "Now I've added the coaching aspect, and I'm looking forward to seeing and talking about the game in a different way. I'm excited about it."
Nearly 40 years after graduating from South Carolina, English still ranks second in career scoring (1,972 points), number one in field goals made (855), and third in career rebounds (1,064). Stepping into the Carolina Coliseum, which is now a practice facility for the Gamecocks, brings back a lot of memories.
"It was great going in there and seeing the hardwood floors," English said. "When I played here, we had the tartan floor that didn't make any sound. It was always packed though. One of my fondest memories was of the band. They were always rocking. They always had lots of rhythm. Lots of big games there and stars came through there when I played. The toughest guy I ever played against was Larry Kenon from Memphis. They called him `Dr. K.' Adrian Dantley and Toby Knight played with Notre Dame and they were really good, and Larry Fogle from Canisius was a great offensive player."
Having played for Frank McGuire in what was the most successful era of Gamecock men's basketball, the 60 year old English also has fond memories of his former coach.
"He was a professional," English said of McGuire. "He treated us like professionals, and he expected us to be professional. He was a player's coach. He didn't get too wound up, but he expected you to come to play on game night. He taught me some great life lessons too; even the simple things. He always told us to take care of people like the bell man and the bus boy and people like that. He always told us to make them feel well and to tip those guys because if you took care of them, they would take care of you."
Turning his attention to the South Carolina basketball program of today, he likes what he sees with Frank Martin at the helm.
"Of all the coaches they've had here in the last number of years, I think he is the one guy that can really pull this thing together," English said. "You have to be a father, but you also have to be a boss. He's got those things going for him. He's very knowledgeable about the game."
English averaged a double-double with 22.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a senior in 1976, and he is one of only five Gamecocks to have his jersey retired, but he knew it wouldn't be easy to make it to the next level.
"It means a lot to be recognized," English said. "There wasn't any guarantee that I would make it in the NBA though. I was 6'8" and only 190 pounds. That made me work hard. My determination was what propelled me the most. I wasn't going to fail."
English would not fail and was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. He is quick to point out that the league was a lot different back then, especially for rookies.
"I got a phone call telling me they were going to draft me in the second round, and that was it," English said. "No fanfare. I think my signing bonus was $5,000 and another $5,000 if I made the team. I didn't have a guaranteed contract. It's a different league now. The players today are certainly talented, but I think when I played they were a bit rougher. You can't hand-check a guy today. I would like to think I gave everybody fits, but that's not the truth. There were a lot of guys who were really tough defenders."
He soon became an offensive force with his shooting and driving skills. He spent 10 of his 15 NBA seasons with the Denver Nuggets and while Julius Erving, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson grabbed most of the headlines in that era, English was the league's leading scorer throughout the 1980s with 19,682 points. He was an eight-time NBA All-Star and was the first player in NBA history to score 2,000 points in eight consecutive seasons. The Nuggets would later retire his jersey as well.
In addition to being dominant on the basketball floor, he also established himself as one of basketball's most respected players and earned the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for community service in 1988. Three years earlier, he convinced NBA players to donate their shares from the All-Star game to the famine relief fund, Interaction Ethiopia. He was consistent, but not flamboyant during his playing days. That consistency carries over to his willingness to continue to give back today.
"I just came back from Uruguay after doing a clinic for underprivileged kids," English said. "After the (South Carolina) game on November 14, I'm heading to Chile to do another clinic for wheelchair basketball."
As he makes his debut broadcasting games on SEC Network+, English is excited to see Frank Martin and the Gamecocks create a new era of excitement for South Carolina basketball.
"I was recently at practice and listened as a player and a coach, and Frank Martin's plan is very good," English said. "Coaching is not easy."
English will serve as the color analyst alongside play-by-play man Andy Demetra on the SEC Network+ broadcasts on the following dates:
Nov. 11 - South Carolina vs. North Florida
Dec. 21 - South Carolina vs. Coker
Dec. 30 - South Carolina vs. North Carolina A&T
To view SEC Network+ broadcasts go to www.secnetwork.com and create a login by identifying your cable or satellite provider. If your provider does not carry SEC Network+, please contact your provider to let them know of your interest.