Childhood & Early Life
Kenny Ray Carter was born on February 13, 1959, in Fernwood, Mississippi, U.S.A. His was a close-knit family and community, which played a crucial role in making him the person he is today. He grew up with seven sisters and a brother.
Carter's family had to move to the not-so-peaceful city of Richmond in California. Nevertheless, his parents always taught him to be kind toward others.
Even though Carter's parents wanted him to focus on his studies, he eventually developed a passion for basketball.
After graduating high school, Carter attended the 'George Fox University' in Oregon on a scholarship. He returned to Richmond and then studied at the 'San Francisco State University.'
He wished to build a career as an e-entrepreneur and thus took up e-commerce courses at the 'Contra Costa College' in San Pablo, California.
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In 1997, Carter began his coaching career with the high-school boys' basketball team at his alma mater. The main reason for him to take up the offer was to improve the school and the community, both of which had deteriorated since he had left Richmond. The town was plagued by drug abuse and unemployment, while the school's graduation rate was just 50 percent.
Carter wanted to improve the condition of not only the school but of the whole community, and for this, he put up the condition of being able to exercise full authority and control over the school's basketball team, before accepting the offer.
He planned to improve the academic structure of the school through its basketball team. The students’ achievement record had not gone beyond the bottom 10 percent of the California high schools. 'Richmond High' had also performed poorly in basketball for the past 2 decades. The young people of the community were more likely to land in jail than in a college.
Carter decided to turn things around by taking his players off the court. As part of his off-the-court training, he would take the players on field trips to high-tech firms in Silicon Valley to make them understand the value of education.
The most effective scheme was Carter's contract that the students had to sign in order to enter the basketball team. The contract mandated a 2.3 grade-point average and perfect class attendance records, along with conditions such as always sitting in the front row and addressing men and women as "sir" and "madam," respectively. The students were also required to study for 10 hours a week, submit homework on time, and follow a dress code.
Through the contract, Carter successfully earned 'Richmond High' a 13–0 record, candidature for the state championship 'Go Oilers!,' and new business prospects, all by January 1999. Half of Carter's 1998–1999 ‘Richmond’ squad was able to join colleges and universities such as the 'University of California' and the 'University of Nevada' in Las Vegas. His son, Damien, too, joined the 'U.S. Military Academy' in West Point, New York.
However, Carter was not satisfied with the results. He found out that 15 of the 45 players in the program had failed to meet the terms of the contract. He did not want them to get away and decided to punish them.
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Carter locked the doors of ‘Richmond's gymnasium, thus locking out the varsity team, the undefeated junior varsity, and the freshman players (including his son). He announced that he would cancel the whole season. The 'Richmond High' student body termed the strict action as the ''Great Lockout.''
The lockout gained praises all over the state, but Carter experienced some opposition, too, which eventually took a violent turn. His sports-goods shop was vandalized, and his personal property was harmed. Some charged Carter with opportunism, too.
The ‘Richmond’ school board argued that Carter was just a coach and had no right to lock the gym facility. A week after the chaos, Carter mellowed down to some extent. However, he still benched several players in the subsequent season. The initial public rage turned into support and praise for Carter, for prioritizing good values for his team.
The ''Great Lockout'' not only earned Carter popularity but got him several lucrative lecture opportunities, too. He also received a decent consulting fee for the film 'Coach Carter.' The 2005 film, based on his life as the coach of 'Richmond High,' became a box-office hit. The movie featured Samuel L. Jackson as Carter, while his son, Damien, was portrayed by Robert Ri'chard. The film also used some sub-plots from the ‘CBS’ drama 'The White Shadow.' It was largely appreciated by critics and won several nominations and awards in 2005–2006.
In 2002, Carter was named the head coach of the Los Angeles-based ‘SlamBall’ team 'Rumble.' He also established a publishing company named 'Prime Time Publishing,' which published several of his motivational print and audio products, including '101 Ways to Earn a Higher GPA.'
He was honored with the title of the 'San Francisco Bay Area Entrepreneur of the Year' in 2001 and was the torchbearer of the 2002 'Winter Olympic Games' in Salt Lake City, Utah. Some of his other achievements include being part of 'CityFlight' magazine’s list of the ''Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area'' and winning awards such as the 'NAACP Impact Citizen of the Year' award, the 'Leadership Award' (from San Francisco mayor Willie Brown),and the 'California Unsung Heroes Award.'
In 2002, he founded the non-profit organization 'Coach Ken Carter Foundation,' which helps young people from underprivileged communities by providing them adequate educational opportunities and promoting student-related projects. In 2005, he announced he would return as the junior high-school coach at 'Richmond High.'
Apart from owning a sports-goods shop, he invested in a block of downtown buildings in his home community, where he later launched a barbershop and a hair salon. In 2005, Carter proposed a boarding school project called the 'Coach Carter Impact Academy' in Marlin, Texas. However, the project was later canceled.
In March 2020, Carter visited 'Richmond High' to help out the basketball team of the 'Nystrom Elementary School.' He helped the school team's coach, Kevin Armstrong, run drills to prepare the team for a first-round playoff game in the 'Richmond Elementary School Sports League' of the ‘West Contra Costa Unified School District.’