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PSR December Preview: John Amaechi on Penn State

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Former Penn State basketball star and retired NBA player John Amaechi talked recently with PSR's Tony DeFazio about the sex abuse case unfolding at his alma mater. Read the highlights here.

John Amaechi is a retired British basketball player who currently works as a psychologist, educator and sports broadcaster in Europe and the United States. Amaechi was one of the top players in Penn State basketball history and went on to spend six seasons in the NBA as well as four in Europe. In February 2007, after his retirement from the NBA, Amaechi became the first former NBA player to come out of the closet publicly. Since then he has been regarded as "one of the world's most high-profile gay athletes." His research and work as a psychologist has brought about a great deal of change in youth sports in England. On Friday, PSR Editor Tony DeFazio discussed the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, and the breaking scandal at Syracuse, with Amaechi. The entire interview will be available online and in the print version of the Pittsburgh Sports Report next week.

On powerful coaching icons such as Jim Boeheim and Joe Paterno
"When a person becomes an icon, when a coach, an athletic director, whoever, becomes synonymous with that institution—and it's the same with CEOs who are synonymous with their company brand—if that individual behaves in a way that is thoughtful, mindful, careful, then the culture that follows them will be that. If they are the type of person, however, that demands absolute power... if they are the type of person that becomes the center of that universe at that institution, then that becomes a very dangerous thing."

His feelings toward Penn State
"I am saddened. Every time that I've been introduced as being from Penn State, when people have said, 'This is Amaechi, he went to Penn State,' my heart has swollen with pride. But I was in Washington recently for a dinner, and when I was introduced before the dinner, before I spoke, they introduced me as being from Penn State and the audience gasped... and my heart hurt. That is a transition I don't enjoy and a feeling I don't want to remain. Which is why I want to help make it better."

How Penn State moves forward
"It's a question of making sure people know that what Penn State is trying to achieve is authentic, meaningful change. Not spin."

How these incidents may impact youth sports
"The fact is that it's not an incredibly fine line to walk. It's a matter of making your intentions clear. There are some things we know that you just can't do. But most of those things that we're talking about are things that people wouldn't dream about doing. Showering with kids is just not the same as packing them into the car and heading out somewhere on a road trip with your assistant coach or somebody else."

His opinion on whether the coaching staff knew
"If you read the indictment, it just seems so highly implausible that it's impossible that not just one, but two or five people, didn't know what was going on... If you are the most powerful person in central Pennsylvania and this is happening in your organization, how do you not find out?"

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