Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
The dreadlocks are still there. Only they’re a little longer now. So, too, is the infectious, glowing smile that can fill a dull, hazy gym on a late-summer weekend afternoon. The sharper, acute points on the arms and shoulders are rounder, which comes with age.
But if you peel everything back beyond the Phillies cap Ty Garland was wearing during the City of Basketball Love Interstate Shootout, you could close your eyes and see it again: The bouncing thick, black licorice strands under the blue headband gliding effortlessly down the middle of the lane through the Mississippi defense eight years ago to unfurl the famous “Southwest Philly Floater.”
Former La Salle star Ty Garland (above) is getting his feet wet coaching Rutgers Prep in offseason events. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Garland, 29, still feels he has some basketball left in his lithe body, though the former La Salle and Bartram High star could see coaching in his future, after stepping in last weekend to coach Rutgers Prep, where his close friend, Matt Bloom, is the head coach.
Since making the “Southwest Philly Floater,” the famous shot that propelled La Salle into the 2013 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Garland has been somewhere in the world playing professionally, from Canada to Kosovo, to the Dominican Republic, Iceland, Greece, Denmark and Puerto Rico.
Garland’s childhood dream was to play basketball and he’s going to do it for as long as his body allows. As he nears 30, however, he’s creating an end game to his playing days to segue into the next phase of his life.
“I still have some playing juices flying, but I have been taking the time out to start coaching and I’m looking forward to coaching when I’m done,” said Garland, who started his Southwest Philly Floater brand in 2019, featuring jerseys, socks and headbands. “In 2018, I had some interaction with kids at the PAL centers in Southwest Philly and I enjoyed it. I figure to get my feet wet now rather than later. Some old coaches I know have asked if I would consider coaching.
“I care about these kids, because I was one of those kids. I came up in a single-parent home with just my mother, so I’ve been observant of kids like me. It’s why I want to help kids. I would love to coach in the future, especially in the Southwest area of Philly, where kids need help, because Philly is crazy right now.
“When I was 16, 17, 18, I wasn’t even worried about being shot when I played on the playgrounds. Now, it’s all over. These kids are afraid to go out and play, and that bothers me. Coaching is a greater calling, bigger than basketball, and I would only love to coach in the Philly area. In two years, I know four kids that died who I coached at the PAL.”
Since New Jersey high school rules prohibit head coaches from coaching during the off-season, Bloom tapped his friend Garland to coach his team in the Rider Team Camp in June, as well as CoBL’s September event. Bloom and Garland have known each other for over a decade. In fact, Garland is the godfather of Bloom’s eight-year-old son Eli, who would have been named “Tyrone” if La Salle won the 2013 national championship.
Ty Garland (above) and Rutgers Prep head coach Matt Bloom met as part of the La Salle University men's basketball program. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“Little by little I’m trying to encourage Ty into coaching,” said Bloom, 39, who was the La Salle video coordinator in 2013; a year later, he was promoted to Director of Basketball Operations for the Explorers, and held that role for three years. “I personally think he’s really great with kids. Ty is family and I would love him to be a part of our staff, but he still has some basketball in him.
“Ty has a gift for coaching and relating to people. He’s going to be great whenever he decides and he’s able to commit to coaching full time. He’s just not ready to quit playing just yet, but coaching is in his future. Ty is still young. His personality lights up any room he walks into. Everyone likes him and he’s just a star person.”
Booth said Garland’s intangibles make him relatable to today’s players.
Garland, 2014 La Salle graduate with a degree in sociology, went through the gamut of the basketball wash-and-rinse cycle from top to bottom. The 6-foot-1 guard originally went to Virginia Tech out of Bartram, before transferring home with the help of an Explorers assistant coach, Ashley Howard, now the Explorers’ head coach.
Garland, who averaged 12.8 points a game in his two years at La Salle, rose to national prominence on March 24, 2103, coming off the bench to beat Ole Miss, 76-74, on the Southwest Philly Floater with 2.5 seconds left to play.
Garland memorialized his famous 'Southwest Philly Floater' interview on a t-shirt. (Photo: Joseph Santoliquito/CoBL)
The next thing he knew, he had a mic in his face being interviewed by the late Craig Sager on national TV when Garland dropped his mantra, “That’s the Southwest Philly Floater, man,” after Sager asked Garland what he called the shot.
Amauro Austin, one of the directors for the Philly Pride AAU basketball club, goes way back with Garland to his teenage days. He, too, can foresee coaching in Garland’s future.
“Tyrone was raised was right, and that can be attributed to his mother,” Austin said. “He’s an only child. All he wanted to do was play basketball. That was him. He definitely has coaching in his future. I’ve watched him the last couple of summers with Rutgers Prep, and he can always come back to Philly Pride, because a lot of my fondest memories are with Ty going toe-to-toe with Victor Oladipo, Brandon Knight, Kyrie Irving, and none of them got over on Tyrone.
“Could you imagine if social media was as big then as it is now? He would have blown up. There’s no question about it that Tyrone has ‘it.’ He’s a cultural icon, and once Tyrone gets around you, he grabs you. He’s a people-person on all levels. He cares about other people. That’s Ty just being Ty.”
Garland is not putting any time frame on when he wants to coach. He wants to make sure he wrings out every last ounce of his playing ability he still has left. He wouldn’t sit during his coaching stints with Rutgers Prep. He was as much into the game, maybe even more so, than the teenaged players he was coaching and playing.
“I want to do it and I can see myself doing it, coaching,” Garland said. “When I make the commitment to coaching, it will have to be a full commitment. I don’t want to come in and coach, then run off if another team calls me. I want to give these kids 100-percent of me and each time I get to know the kids, I can’t walk away.
“That’s always been the toughest part for me, walking away when another (pro) team calls. I would love to coach at the high school or the college level. When I do coach, I want to be done playing. When I’m committed, I’m committed because I don’t want to let any kid down. I want to give back.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.