Acie Earl

Center, 1990-1993

February 25, 2015

Written by Mitch Smith

Acie Earl may be retired from professional basketball, but his passion for the game is never-ending.

From young kids to seasoned veterans, the former center that starred at Iowa from 1990-93 is helping others work to achieve their basketball dreams.

Equipped with vast hoops knowledge after four years in the NBA and an eight-year career overseas, Earl continues to spread his wisdom and enthusiasm for the game through coaching, teaching, and books.

Earl, 44, operates Venom Sports Training, a basketball skills program for children ranging from grade school to high school. He also coaches boys and girls traveling teams — ranging from third to seventh graders  — under the Venom Sports name.

On top of that, he organizes basketball camps throughout the year, works with around 25 kids through individual training sessions, and teaches a course about coaching in the University of Iowa’s American Studies department.

Rich Walker, who spent 16 years as an assistant coach at Iowa, said the sky is the limit to what Earl can contribute to the hoops community. Walker and Earl remain very close friends and even co-authored a basketball skills and fundamentals book titled, Basketball’s Main Ingredients Part II.

“With Acie, what you see is a continued passion and appreciation for the game — a desire to share the knowledge gained with others,” Walker said. “The passion for the game doesn’t stop just because you stop playing. He’s finding ways to give back to youngsters by continuing to be a professional and a teacher. That’s a natural evolution for him.”

As a coach, Earl said his style is constantly evolving. Just like his players, he hopes to grow and develop each year, and avoid being complacent.

“I’ve changed drastically from my first year of coaching,” he said. “I tell the parents all the time that I hope I’ve gotten a little bit smarter each year. My goal is to help kids grow and develop on and off the court. I get a great deal of gratification watching my teams play well and seeing the kids improve.”

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Earl lives in Iowa City, selling real estate and owning rental properties throughout Eastern Iowa. He’s a father of five — three of whom play basketball.

The 6-10 center had one of the most illustrious collegiate careers in Iowa history. He earned the 1992 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, and ranks second on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,779 points).

Defensively, Earl’s discipline and timing were unmatched — at one point he played in 85 straight games without fouling out. He’s the greatest shot blocker to ever wear the Black and Gold — holding the Hawkeye record for the most in a game (9), season (121), and career (365).

To put those numbers in perspective, Greg Stokes — second on Iowa’s all-time list — recorded 136 fewer blocked shots.

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Selected 19th overall in the 1993 NBA Draft, Earl went on to play four seasons in the league with Boston, Toronto, and Milwaukee.

In 1997, he took his game overseas, and had a successful career playing in places like France, Australia, Turkey, Russia, Austria, Montenegro, and Kosovo, until a torn Achilles forced him to retire in 2004.

At the end of his career, the former Hawkeye was left with a great deal of life experiences he felt others would benefit from knowing. For many college players, competing overseas may be the only viable option to continue their basketball careers.

With this comes many off the court challenges, including adjusting to a new culture, figuring out lodging, dealing with language barriers, handling contracts, and budgeting money. Earl tackles those topics in his book, How to Play Overseas.

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Even away from the hardwood, Earl is helping others achieve their goals. After getting help creating basketball instructional DVDs at Iowa City’s public access TV station, he was asked if he’d be willing to have a role in a local science fiction film.

The former Hawkeye appears in “Moon Zero Three,” a sci-fi film shot entirely in Iowa City, playing a character named Fasthorse  — a villainous space outlaw.

Earl has a couple more basketball-related books in the works, and he’d like to teach classes on real estate and entrepreneurship. Beyond that, his goals include taking care of his family and making sure his basketball teams are playing at a high level.

“I told him, you don’t have to be a high-profile coach like a Dean Smith or John Thompson to be successful in life and be a wonderful contributor to the game and to kids,” Walker said.

The former Hawkeye has taken that advice to heart and found his niche in the game, encouraging and instructing a new generation who dream of reaching basketball’s highest level.

“I kind of accepted I’m probably not going to coach at a major level,” Earl said. “A lot of ex-professional players get that in their mind. Those jobs are great to have, but everybody can’t be that person – you have to find your role. My role is at the grassroots level, helping kids and parents.”

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