FLINT, Michigan—Flint native Kevin Tiggs’ professional basketball career took him all over the world. When his playing career wound down, there was only one logical destination for him: home.
Home is Flint, but more specifically, it is Mott Community College, where as a budding assistant coach he’s giving back to the program that he credits with helping launch his journey as a pro basketball player. Tiggs played only one season of high school basketball at Flint Northern and was working full time after high school before attending an open gym at Mott in 2005. Mott coach Steve Schmidt convinced him to enroll and join the team.
“I’ve never seen Kevin Tiggs have a bad day,” Schmidt said. “He’s an inspiration because no matter what’s going on, he brings a positive energy. The room lights up when Kevin is around. He’s a very unique person.”
As a player, Tiggs helped propel Mott’s already-successful program to new heights. In two years playing for the Bears, he led the team to a national championship and was named National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Player of the Year. He went on to play at Division I East Tennessee State University, where he became an all-conference player and led the team to an NCAA Tournament appearance his senior year. As a professional, he played for teams in the Ukraine, Cyprus, Germany, Finland, Australia, France, and Belgium before retiring and returning to Flint in 2017.
“I would’ve never thought basketball would’ve opened that many doors for me, let me see the world,” said Tiggs, 35, who is now in his second season as an assistant coach for Mott’s men’s basketball team.“Especially with me not playing much high school basketball and starting here.”
Now, Tiggs has brought that experience to help mold the next generation of Mott players. Tiggs’ on-court accomplishments are impressive, but what Schmidt appreciates even more is his personality and consistency.
Tiggs has over a decade of high-level basketball expertise to pass on as a coach, and an exuberance to help all the players he’s coaching. Schmidt works with him to remember where he was at this stage of his own development as a player at Mott, and not expect too much too fast.
“Kevin was so raw as a basketball player when he came here, he had to start from scratch,” said Schmidt. “Kevin wasn’t a finished product when he was here, but he let me coach him as a player and now he’s letting me coach him to become a better coach. It just takes time and it takes experience. He’s going to be a great coach.”
Tiggs didn’t always envision becoming a coach, but with over a decade of high-level basketball expertise, his position on it evolved.
“You don’t really see yourself coaching until people start responding to things you say,” he said. “Then it’s like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ You have knowledge, and when you see people not doing things the right way, you wanna help. With me, it’s just a natural reaction to want to help.”
Tiggs has the benefit of learning from an experienced staff. In his 29th season as Mott’s coach, Schmidt has won four national championships and has more than 700 wins as head coach. Assistant Carl Jones has been on staff for more than 20 of those seasons and assistant Yusuf Harris, who played for Schmidt his first season coaching Mott in 1991, has been on staff for nearly 20 years.
He’s a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Hall of Famer. But, much like his players, he’s also just a dreamer at heart. Schmidt grew up in Lansing and attended Lansing Waverly High School, desiring to play at Michigan State University.
“I wasn’t good enough to play at MSU,” Schmidt said. “But I went to junior college in California and played for a great coach, came back, and then played at Central Michigan. I remember being just like these kids, chasing dreams.”
The wins and championships are important, but what Schmidt is most proud of is simply providing opportunities for players like Tiggs to continue pursuing their goal of playing college or professional basketball after Mott. It’s an added benefit that Tiggs and Schmidt have a relationship that extends beyond basketball.
“Aw man, I like to call him more of a father figure but he likes me to say more of a brother — he told me, ‘Don’t tell people that, you make me seem old!’” Tiggs said. “Coaching with him, I like it a lot. We communicate very well, I know the things he wants. He goes after high-risk kids and he gives them chances, that’s the great thing about him, he doesn’t give up on you easily.”
Having Tiggs on staff is another example of a point of pride — Mott basketball as a positive showcase of the best of what Flint has to offer the world.
“I love Mott, I am Mott,” said Tiggs, “I feel like, it’s a place where you feel like you were taught something good. Whenever something good happens in your life, you never really forget it. When you play here, you always want to come back.”