Sweet Georgia Brown! Globetrotter Coach at home in Blythewood

Harlem Globetrotters head coach Barry Hardy enjoying a morning of fishing at his ‘above top secret’ fishing hole in Blythewood.

Coach Barry Hardy and his wife, LaKeba, and their three children, Bryson in front, Barry Jr. and Lauren.

When Blythewood’s Barry Hardy, 42, recently commented that he’s living his dream, he wasn’t talking just about his job as head coach of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters. He was also referencing what he considers his idyllic life in Blythewood where he lives with his wife, the former LaKeba (Keba) Waden, who grew up in Blythewood, their three young children, Barry, 8; Lauren, 7; Bryson, 4, and their menagerie of household pets – a dog, lizard, frog and other wild things, most of which live in Barry Jr.’s room.

While the Globetrotters play about 300 games each year in 300 different cities in more than 25 countries, Hardy said he still manages to get back to Blythewood for a week or so every few weeks and treasures his time back home with his family.

On those occasions, his mornings begin with taking the kids to school. Then he usually heads for his favorite fishing hole, a peaceful respite on a nearby lake where he casts for bass and blue gill until about noon.

“This is beautiful,” he said, gesturing toward the bucolic lake setting lined with a forest of trees, so quiet and pristine that it seemed miles away from habitation instead of in the middle of a neighborhood.

“I grew up fishing with my dad,” Hardy said, with the first cast of his spinning reel into the smooth, still lake on a recent early morning. “And now my kids fish with me. They’re really into it,” he said proudly before slipping into serious fishing talk.

“It takes the right equipment, the right strategy and lots of patience to catch bass,” he explained.

Growing up in Inkster, Mich., near Detroit, Hardy said he and his childhood playmates played basketball in his back yard hours on end.

“We’d watch the Globetrotters play on TV back then – all those great players. And we dreamed of one day being one of them,” Hardy recalled. “That music, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown,’ always set the mood for us . . . and it still does for me. It still makes me happy every time I hear it. All us kids wanted to grow up to be Globetrotters,” he said smiling at the remembrance.

For Hardy, it happened.

After earning a degree in business management in 1993 from Brigham Young University in Hawaii, where he played basketball on an athletic scholarship, Hardy was recruited by the Globetrotters.

Dubbed ‘High Rise Hardy’ for his high jumps and high jinx, Hardy spent six years as a Globetrotter, traveling the world and having fun. But it was a promotion to Regional Marketing Director for the organization in 2000 that brought him to Columbia where he met Keba, who, he said, is still the girl of his dreams.

“Keba had just started working at 98.5 KISS radio when I stopped in to buy air time,” Hardy recalled. Two years later the couple was married at Good Aim Baptist Church in Tookiedo. They settled in Blythewood to raise their family.

In 2006, Hardy was named head coach of the Globetrotters.

“I loved playing,” he said, “but being named coach was icing on the cake.”

During his tenure with the team as player and, later, coach, Hardy has traveled to 90 countries.

“When we’re on the road, we practice every day and play every night. It’s fun out there shooting, doing jump shots and dunking,” he said.

But Hardy emphasized that the goal is always to give the audience what they came for – a spectacular, amazing performance that they can’t believe.

“And we do that, every game,” he said.

Hardy said it was during his early years as a player that he learned the secrets of being a Globetrotter from the team’s famous favorites – Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal, Tex Harrison and others.

So, what are those secrets of the team’s ball-handling wizardry?

Hardy smiled.

“A good magician doesn’t give that away,” he said. “That would spoil the fun.”

But he did reveal that the players, most of whom are recruited right out of college, are not trained by the organization in their various basketball tricks and artistic showmanship.

“I look for players who can do it all,” Hardy said. “They have to be able to play the game and stay up with the ball. When they start training, we pull out of them the unique movements and actions they naturally bring to the game, whether it’s jumping, dribbling or other antics that thrill and entertain the audience.”

Just as important, Hardy added, new recruits must also possess high moral and ethical standards in their personal and professional lives.

“We choose players who are squeaky clean, fun and family oriented. That’s our brand. That’s what makes them Globetrotters. They have to embrace being role models,” Hardy said.

Once an all-male team, the Globetrotters now boast three females members.

“We have players of all colors, races, size and gender,” Hardy said. “The common denominator is that they are the best people and the best basketball players.”

Besides a four-month North American tour and several world tours each year, the Globetrotters perform an annual tour for United States soldiers on the front lines of battle, usually right before Christmas.

“We don’t just play basketball on this tour,” Hardy said. “We spend time with the soldiers, eat breakfast with them and talk about sports, basketball, football, whatever they want. We let them know how much we appreciate what they’re doing.”

For more than 87 years, the Harlem Globetrotters, who are based out of Phoenix, Ariz., have performed for 132 million people, including kings, queens and heads of state, in 120 countries. The schedule, Hardy admits, is demanding. The team is currently preparing for a Middle Eastern tour. But going on tour doesn’t always mean Hardy leaves his family behind.

“Keba and the kids go with me when they can. They’ve been to Madison Square Garden and other places in the United States with us,” Hardy said. “The organization encourages us to take our families along whenever possible.”

Hardy said his kids follow the Globetrotters and know all the players.

“Our youngest, Bryson, is crazy about Globy, the team’s mascot, and all three kids play basketball at home and mimic various members of the team. Every time they hear ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ their eyes light up,” he said. “So do mine. That song still says Globetrotters for me, just like when I was a kid.”

Hardy is clearly a man who loves his job, his family and his adopted hometown.

“I’m very blessed,” he said as he reeled in an empty hook. He shrugged, smiled and cast his line again.

“I like to catch fish, but it’s really the fishing that I enjoy . . . out here in the peace and quiet of this beautiful lake,” he said. “I love it here.”

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