Kevin Eastman, class of 1977, is one of many members of the University of Richmond's successful alumni circle, but he is perhaps the only one whose co-workers have included NBA stars Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.
The New Jersey native played basketball for the Spiders from 1973 to 1977, and was named a three-year starter and a two-time team captain. Eastman is also a member of the UR Athletics Hall of Fame. Despite his success on the court at UR, playing in the NBA was not in his future.
“Richmond basketball allowed me to learn something that was hard to accept, but important,” Eastman said. “It grabbed me and shouted, ‘Hey little boy! You are not good enough to play in the NBA.'”
But Eastman didn’t allow his talent level to limit his opportunities or deter him from pursuing his passion. His basketball career did not come to an end when he received his diploma, as he continued to follow his dream of playing professional basketball after college.
“I played in a league that was filled up with all second-tier basketball players," Eastman said. "And then that folded."
Eastman still refused to give up on incorporating basketball into his life and career. He landed a graduate-assistant coaching job at UR, but was making a mere $2,000 per year.
“Many of us start on the extreme end of the totem pole, and then you start a journey,” Eastman said.
This is a lesson that UR taught him, and it's one that he wants all soon-to-be graduates to remember.
After embarking on the coaching career track, he served as the head coach of UNC Wilmington. Eastman also had stints at the University of Tulsa, Virginia Commonwealth University and Colorado State. He was the athletic director at Randolph-Macon College for one year in 2002.
Eastman began his career in the NBA as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics under head coach Doc Rivers. After spending nine years — from 2004 to 2013 — as the Celtics' assistant coach, he became the vice president for basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers before the 2013 season.
Although Eastman officially retired in 2016, he has not retired from interacting with athletes and others with high aspirations. He became a motivational speaker, sharing his personal story to inspire people to be the best at whatever life track they choose.
“My favorite part of speaking is that I have the potential to impact and inspire people,” Eastman said. “I have no interest in influencing people. I just need to stimulate your thinking.”
Maya Ozery, the director of student-athlete leadership and development at UR, invited Eastman to speak to all of the student-athletes. During his speech, Eastman often referred back to his time at UR. He emphasized that what students learn at college, whether through athletics or not, can, and will, have a direct correlation to their success in their chosen career.
Ozery, who has attended many of Eastman’s speeches, shared her favorite point of his: “I love the way he always drives home that you have to learn from yesterday, perform today and prepare for tomorrow," she said. "This can be applied to each and every student at Richmond.”
Keith Oddo, a junior on the basketball team, attended the Eastman presentation.
“One of the best parts of his speech was his emphasis on not choosing a profession just for the money,” Oddo said. “[Eastman] discussed the importance of making connections and being patient in a field that you enjoy and if you excel at that particular field, then the money will follow.”
Eastman’s career demonstrates the wide range of opportunities available to UR graduates. Although his career did not take the exact path he expected as a freshman, Eastman does not regret his path to success.
Eastman also discussed the importance of being flexible and passionate. He said that if students worked at what they loved, they would never have to work a day in their lives.
“Be a life long learner. Live with your eyes and ears open. New opportunities will come on your journey,” Eastman said.
Contact features contributor Caroline Queally at firstname.lastname@example.org