From a retired NBA star to basketball hoops king in Qatar

Written by Staff Writer

By Karalynn Andrews

Karalynn Andrews is a history and literary studies graduate student at Auburn University in Alabama. When she’s not writing, she loves to watch movies and listen to music. She previously worked at CNN affiliate WAFF-TV in Birmingham, Alabama, as a broadcast producer.

His guilt was eating away at Rich Grimes, a basketball coach at Williamston High School in North Carolina.

Throughout his son, Nick, would claim Grimes as a role model. He would do all he could to teach Nick — heck, to keep the little boy from doing all he could to also watch Grimes.

“I had a loving father,” Grimes told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “But he was mostly there when I beat my son. He was there when I abused him. I was mostly there when he served my drug addiction.”

Rich Grimes running with his son, Nick. Courtesy Greg White

A mother’s love

Grimes’ story is an American fairy tale — one of overcoming physical and sexual abuse, ultimately a decades-long addiction, addiction that ultimately cost Grimes his career as a professional basketball player.

He lost his son, Nick, an aspiring millionaire who also turned to drugs and served time in jail. He was about to lose his wife, Karla, who suffered from dementia. The pinnacle of it all — a season in the NBA, where Grimes and his team won the National Basketball Association championship — was stolen from him.

Grimes had a plan. He needed a plan.

And so Grimes did what any man would do — he called in a favor. He called his old friend, Greg White, to help him. White had befriended Grimes back in the 1990s. A former business man, White was wise enough to offer advice. The pair rebuilt Grimes’ life.

“What was beautiful about Rich, as I fell in love with him, (was) the innate trust of his heart,” White told CNN. “Rich is not a victim.”

A different culture

When Grimes moved to Walton County, Florida, in the late 1990s, he had no idea what he was getting into. He left a small town in Kentucky with his two sons.

Many of the homes in the small area are run-down and don’t have running water. People drive around in Mercedes or Jaguars. But the two boys, Grimes and his youngest son, struggled to adapt to the culture.

“My father didn’t want my boys around him, but I worked very hard to fit in and to be accepted into that situation,” Grimes said. “There was a lot that was foreign for me and my kids at that point. I wasn’t used to that type of life.”

In the early 2000s, Grimes began sending his sons to play soccer in Qatar, which was still a country governed by a monarchy and controlled by Islam.

“In most of those countries, that’s a step closer to what we have here in the States,” he said. “My sons loved it, the culture, the people. It was a good way for them to get acclimated.”

Nick grew up in Qatar, only about 1,000 miles from the United States. But what he knew was something his father couldn’t grasp.

“I always heard about how he’d changed over there, how his side of the family was loving him,” Grimes said. “I started getting more familiar with that but wasn’t as deeply involved. I didn’t see any improvement.”

Grimes said his family in Walton County was wonderful, but their reaction to his sons was different than the one he’d hoped for.

“The way that they wanted me to reconcile with my family was, they wanted me to quit fighting and go live in Qatar forever,” Grimes said. “I thought, if you want me to settle down to our family, I can try to survive and do this with my best work but I can’t afford to live like that forever.”

A wild ride

Grimes sold his house in 2009 to set up house in Miami and train young players. He now works with some of the nation’s top high school players. Many of them he tutored at the very same court where he started his career.

“For me, the biggest thing is the kids,” Grimes said. “I love to coach them. I love to help them.”

One of his biggest successes was Matthew Rickman, who in June won the Mr. Florida Elite 12 Wrestling Championship.

“(Rich) is a loving and caring person,” Rickman said. “I love that he’s cared for my career since Day 1 and truly believes in me. He believes in my potential as a wrestler and as a person.”

To be picked by Grimes to train, a young wrestler must have a “trustworthy relationship” with Grimes.

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