Elston Turner returns to 'special' place

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- One week out of the year, Elston Turner returns to the school where it all began.

"We had players who played together for years, so we had a camaraderie there that was special," Turner said Wednesday afternoon at Austin-East High School after his basketball camp ended for the day.

"We were able to win the state championship in '77. It was special. It's still special," Turner continued.

Turner, now an assistant for the NBA's Phoenix Suns, graduated from Austin-East in 1977. After a standout career at A-E, he attended Ole Miss, where he helped the Rebels reach their first ever NCAA tournament in 1981.

Later that year, Turner was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks. He played eight seasons in the NBA, suiting up for the Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and the Chicago Bulls.

His playing career then turned into a coaching career, but thru it all, Turner never forgot his roots.

"I wanted to come back and just lend a hand, try to help the community, help kids, tell them about my mistakes, tell them about fundamentals...try to touch a life in some kind of way."

This week marks the eleventh year Turner's camp has touched lives. His camp compares to nothing Turner experienced during his Knoxville childhood.

"When we grew up there wasn't any professional ball players that could come back where you could see them, feel them, hear them speak, learn from their advice. There wasn't anybody like that."

Turner's camp runs thru Saturday. His attention will then turn back to the NBA and the Suns.

Turner, 52, has been an assistant for the last fifteen years, but he hasn't given up hope of one day becoming a head coach.

"Spaces are limited. There's 30 jobs. As soon as one becomes vacate, it's 300 people with their name in the hat."

"I've been fortunate enough to be on a number of interviews: Phoenix, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Chicago. At least two of those I was down to the top one or two. It hasn't happened for me yet, but I've never been a quitter and I'm going to keep on trying to get there."

With the Suns, Turner's job will be to focus on defense. His previous coaching job was with Houston, where the Rockets held opponents to a field goal percentage of 45.5 percent.

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