Florida Democratic freshman Rep. Al Lawson, 68, talks about his basketball career, March Madness predictions, and his love of landscaping.
Q: How did you start playing basketball?
A: In 10th grade is when I started playing basketball. I really played baseball until the coach stopped me walking down the hallway and said, “I want you to come see me.” I had to work hard in the sport because of the difference in playing baseball and basketball. I did quite well in high school. I had about 50 or 60 offers to college. I went to Florida A&M, played basketball there, had an outstanding career and I also ran track in college. I never ran track in high school. I probably had more medals in track than I had in basketball.
Q: Tell me about your post-collegiate career.
A: I went to the Indiana Pacers in the [American Basketball Association] and when I got hurt, I got released. I went to the San Diego Conquistadors, at that time, in the ABA. Unfortunately, I was cut by [former San Diego coach] Wilt Chamberlain who only came to practice one day a week. I signed a contract with Atlanta and trained for about a year with Atlanta and we ended up in a contract dispute. I filed a lawsuit for a million dollars. It went about three years before the lawsuit was settled and we won the lawsuit and Atlanta offered me a chance to go back, but at the time, I had started coaching basketball at Florida State as an assistant coach. I coached there for the next six to eight years. In 1972, the highlight was that we played for the national championship against UCLA, so that was a great year.
Q: Who do you think is going to win the national championship this year?
A: I think it’s a toss-up. I think it’s pretty evenly divided this year. When you get down to the Elite Eight, I think you can probably tell what is going to happen. I plan to have a March Madness party up here. Florida A&M has been down for the last couple of years. Their facility is named after me.
Q: What’s in your garden in Florida?
A: I really do [like to garden]. I have a small amount of vegetables and I think that came from growing up in the country. I like to grow tomatoes and cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, peppers, some peas. I also like to do a lot of landscaping. Landscaping is something I kind of picked up from my grandmother when I lived with her because she loves flowers and I love flowers. I tell everybody I want them to give me my flowers when I’m living. I won’t be able to see them when I’m gone. I plant a lot of flowers. I probably have over 10,000 plants in my yard.
Q: How do you spend your time with your grandchildren?
A: I just like to let them have fun. Maybe sit down on the floor, play with their cars, play basketball with them. Anything they like to do, I really enjoy doing it. My granddaughter is in college now. She’s a freshman at Georgia State. Normally, she stays in my back pocket. I have a three-year-old grandson.
Last book you’ve read?: I like reading the Bible.
Last movie you’ve seen?: “Gladiator.” I’ve probably seen it four or five times.Favorite song of all time?: The Delfonics’ “La-La (Means I Love You).” It was one of the songs when I met my wife, so we play it every anniversary.
Role model?: My high school coach.