Playing for Dad: Wakes Brandon Childress

Freshman guard will be calling father Randolph Childress "coach"

On October 23, 2014, Brandon Childress had a conversation with his dad. It didn’t end well.There’s nothing surprising about that. Childress was at an age when clashes with parents are common. The three-star point guard was a junior at Winston-Salem’s Wesleyan High, at the time.”Listen,” his father said. “I need a guard. I need a point guard out of this class. Whether it’s you or someone else, I’m getting this point guard. Now, if the other guy commits, being a dad or not doesn’t save your behind. There’s nothing I can do.” ‘His father, who happened to be Randolph Childress, the leading scorer in Wake Forest history, as well as an assistant coach on Wake coach Danny Manning’s staff, extended his hand, as if he were going to shake hands with his son.”At that point, it’s gonna be, ‘Best of luck,’ and we’ll go from there,” he said.He didn’t like the conversation,” Randolph Childress said, two years later. “Actually, it got heated. I told him, ‘Listen, we’re not waiting around. You’ve got to understand that.’ It’s just such a difficult thing, and being around a bunch of other guys that are high major players, being recruited. I think he struggled with that initially.”Clearly, to say the father/son relationship between the Childress men has been complicated by dad’s job would be an understatement.With Brandon starting his freshman year at Wake Forest this season, things aren’t going to get simpler any time soon.”I’ve got four more years of this,” Brandon said. “So we’re definitely going to bump more heads. It is what it is. I love him because of it. He’s pushing me to be a better player and a better man.”The October 2014 conversation wasn’t the first time they clashed over Brandon’s recruitment.”I said, ‘Listen I’m not going on 5 official visits,” Randolph said. “I’m going on one or two, max. So narrow them down, choose, and then we’ll go. I said, Why waste people’s time?’ That was pretty much the conversation.”Brandon took unofficial visits to a few schools, including East Carolina, but when it came time to play his official visits, dad pulled the plug.”I kind of left that option (of one or two visits) there, but it really wasn’t an option, because I knew where he wanted to go,” the elder Childress said. “And I wasn’t taking off going on nobody’s visit. I didn’t want to hear any spiels. No. I said, ‘You want to come here. Let’s get this over with. Let’s stop this.'”Eventually, Randolph had reached his last straw.”The tendency of kids nowadays, and I know this from recruiting a lot of kids, is to collect a lot of offers and wait and take your time,” he said. “Then the business side of it kicks in for teams. We need a body. We need a kid. I came home that day, and he was just sitting around, still thinking about it.”Despite the hard-line approach to Brandon’s college decision, both father and son are thrilled with where Brandon ended up and looking forward to the next four years.”I can’t believe this has happened so fast,” Brandon said. “I can’t believe I get to play for him, at his alma mater. I mean, his name is in the rafters. I get to look up and look at my last name before every home game. So it’s just an honor. I can’t believe this opportunity is finally here.””I’d be lying to say, from a selfish standpoint, I didn’t want him here, because I wouldn’t be able to watch him play. I’d probably a handful of times all year get to watch him. So from that perspective, I wanted him here. But I also knew he wanted to be here,” Randolph said.The two are still learning the ropes of the coach/player relationship, and how that fits with the long-standing father/son one.”I think the biggest key for that anyone on this road, who happens to play for their father, is that he’s always going to be your father, no matter what,” Brandon said. “On this thing (gestures at the court) he’s your coach, but at the end of the day, he’s your father. He wants what’s best for you, so he’s going to come out of his way to make sure he pushes you to the limit to be the max you can be.””He’s learning the adjustment of when I’m Dad and when I’m Coach,” Randolph said. “I tell all the guys I love them hard, and I coach them hard. He’s not used to me riding him like I have initially, but I told him that’s part of the expectations here. It isn’t a democracy. It’s more of a dictatorship when it comes to the coaching part. Dad listens a little more than Coach does. So it’s a little easier for him as a father/son. Coach knows the plays, knows a little more about basketball than he does, so I tend to get on him harder there.”Randolph is also struggling to keep the two roles separate, as was evident when he tried to give a scouting report on Brandon.”He’s a worker. I’m proud of how hard he’s working,” he said. “The resume stuff will speak for itself. He’s good enough to be here, and we’re proud to have him. He’s going to have to learn to play through his mistakes. That’s the one thing I get on him about: it’s not the mistakes, it’s getting him to understand he has to play through them. It’s the next play. Things that I’ve told him long before I ever got the chance to coach him. Now, I guess my patience for telling him as a coach has run out, because I told him as a dad for so long. That’s probably more of an accurate description of where we are.”Brandon said he doesn’t have any confusion about how to refer to his father at practice. “He’s ‘Coach.’ He probably won’t hear me call him Dad,” he said. “The only time I call him Dad is outside the court. But once we walk inside these four walls, once we walk on that court right there, it’s always Coach.”Brandon made the decision that his dad would be his coach on October 24, 2014, one day after the big blowout in the Childress house.”He came in one day, the very next day, actually,” Randolph said. “He didn’t tell me. He told Coach Manning he wanted to come into the office. Coach Manning walked down the hall and said to me, ‘Hey, Brandon told me he’s coming to follow in his dad’s footsteps.’ I said, ‘Really?’ I read it on Twitter, like I do with everyone else. Then I saw him later on that night, when I got home. I congratulated him and told him I thought he made a great decision.”Randolph also understands the pressure Brandon will feel, playing underneath his dad’s banner.”I tell him all the time, people are going to make the comparison,” he said. “You’ll always be my son. You’ll be 50 and still be my son. That’s all that matters. If they have room for another Childress up there, being the second-best shooter in the family, we’ll deal with that. I’m just trying to get him to realize, ‘You’re not competing against that guy up in the rafters. That guy’s dead and gone. Go out and have fun.”As for the big October, 2014 argument, Dad ended up winning that one.”He actually thought it was a mistake when it first happened,” he said. “He was kind of like, ‘Dad. I don’t know.’ He was a little bit unsure. All his other friends were waiting. Then, he saw what happened, because some of his friends thought those scholarships were going to be there, and when the team got that player, they moved on. He was like, ‘Dad, you were right.'”Childress smiled at the memory and said, “I was like, ‘Yeah, I was right. That’s why I’m the coach!'”