Shooting Hoops With POTUS
Just a casual shot of a couple of buddies after a game: Darryl Gabriel '84, left, and an old friend, named Barack Obama.
Published: August 15, 2012
Darryl Gabriel ’84 played basketball for Loyola Marymount University between 1981–83. Before his LMU career, Gabriel was a star player in Honolulu for Punahou School, which won Hawaii’s 1979 state high school championship. One of Gabriel’s teammates was a “fluid street player” named Barack Obama. Gabriel, who is a sales representative in Honolulu for GlaxoSmithKline, still plays basketball with his former teammate when he visits Hawaii. We asked Gabriel to describe what it’s like to shoot hoops with the president of the United States. He was interviewed by Editor Joseph Wakelee-Lynch.
When you play ball with the president, do you just do shoot-arounds or do you go one-on-one and keep score?
We don’t play one-on-one. It’s usually five-on-five. It’s very competitive, and the score is kept. Usually we play to 25.
What was Obama’s strength as a player in high school?
He was a very fluid street player, so when it came to ad-libbing and creating, he could do that very well.
What’s his strength now?
He’s a much more complete player. He shoots the ball extremely well now. He understands the game a lot better.
Does he say it’s OK to beat him?
No. He’s very competitive. In fact, he has assistants who travel with him and one of them, Reggie Love, was a starter at Duke University. He brings some good players with him.
Do you ever feel it’s wrong to beat the president of the United States in basketball?
No. When we play, we say, “Let’s play hard, let’s really get after it.” I think of it as playing with friends and making it competitive and enjoyable for all of us. That’s how we all look at it.
What about intentional fouls? Do the Secret Service guys have a problem with that?
That’s funny that you ask that. I think the president would be OK with it. I know the Secret Service is watching, but he plays hard and he gets fouled hard. He would expect no less.
There must be some things you never discuss with him: Iraq policy, nuclear weapons, the House Republican leadership, right?
Oh yeah, there’s no conversation about politics. It’s more about family, friendship and old times.
Do you give him advice about his game now?
No, no advice. He plays pretty well against me.
You went on to coach sports for a while after your LMU career. Did you learn things as an athlete at LMU that helped you later?
I learned that the team is important. You can have star players but if you don’t surround yourself with good players who understand a team concept, especially defensively, you’ll struggle.
Does having a friend become president of the United States make you re-evaluate what you’re doing with your own life?
Without a doubt. I don’t think anyone who knew him as well as we did has been unaffected by his becoming president. I don’t think I paid as much attention to politics as I did when he got elected. It’s very surreal sometimes to understand the responsibilities he holds. I know the group of basketball players we were part of in high school, who won a championship together, are very proud.
Last question: Is there any place on the court where the president is money?
He’s money from the baseline — the baseline three-pointer from the right-hand corner. Don’t let him shoot from that spot.