PSYCHO 1949 - 2016

A man never in a hurry

A special feature celebrating the life of Alexander Kojo Anderson

by Stephen jaitoh koffa, jr.

Class of '79

THE COACH

alexander kojo anderson  - psycho

It is unclear exactly when Psycho started his coaching career, on what level, and with which team. Looking back, those unknowns seem almost irrelevant. What we do know is he coached for over 25 years, beginning in the 70's through the 90's. During that period, he brought his superior intellect to coaching. There are many utilities we see in today's game that Psycho used as far back as the mid 70's. He understood the science of the game, and employed every resource he could to make him a better coach. He studied tape and read books on how to develop young athletes. He studied the play of his opponents, watched international and NBA games. All of this was not just to learn as much he could about the game, but to learn coaching techniques used by some of the greatest coaches of the day. Armed with all of these resources, he gave his players the very best he could offer.  

Psycho with Saints Basketball Squad 1978 are: Standing from L to R: The Late Coach Alexander Kojo Anderson (Psycho), Kassa Pratt, Patrick Nepay, Arnold Tolbert, Ben Toles, Boakai Kiahon, Othello Ezeagu, George Gbenyon, and  Team Manager Brother Williams (deceased). Kneeling from L to R: Roosevelt Doe, Earnest Neal, Lami Mason and Jeremiah Mendscole.

His training regimen stressed repetition, drills and conditioning. It was widely known that he would design plays and run them over and over, until his players could execute them on reflex. And if they couldn't, they ran it again. Repetition is always boring to young people, but a sage like Psycho knew its value in coaching. It showed during his games. 

 

One such play that Psycho was widely known for around Monrovia was "Blue Moon". Even his opponents were familiar with those two words. Some had seen the play often enough to stop it, yet they struggled to do so. There was a reason why. Blue Moon seemed simple enough to understand, until you begin to run it. It came with a full complement of options that included high-low picks, elbow jumpers, baseline cuts, point guard sets, wing cuts, corner shots, etc. It created an array of scoring opportunities that would force opponents to "pick their poison." Both Saints and Friskies ran Blue Moon drills in practice, and exhausted its options in games.

Psycho...with his 1984 Friskies Basketball Squad: Standing L to R: Psycho*, Shirley Davies*, Mina Tarpeh, Sharon Brewer, Tarloh Sayeh, Faustina Bonner, Shupan Greenfield (Abraham), Tidi Hodge and Ruseal Brewer. Kneeling L to R: Juliana S'kon Koffa (Dixon), Gloria Metzger, Debbie O'Connor, Williette Birch, Quallyna Porte, Martha Zoegan, Lala Sow (Cassell)

"What I liked about Blue Moon is the many options it had",  says Jero Zogbo Mendscole, who played starting point guard for Psycho on Saints 1979 basketball squad. "As the floor general of the offense, Psycho gave me the freedom to run Blue Moon as I saw fit. It was always fun playing for him because he let you evolve in your role."

Psycho was a master of the game. He understood how to prepare and deploy his players. His brilliance was always on display during games. He would stress tempo and pace, knowing when to attack and pull back. He was patient, but deliberate. He had subtle ways of exploiting an opponent's weaknesses long before they realized what was happening. He had a healthy respect for the competition. Therefore win or lose, he always showed grace and class.

For Psycho, coaching was not just about X's and O's. After all, he could draw up game plans and make in-game adjustments with the best of them. Coaching was about teaching. He was first and foremost a teacher, and coaching was an extension of that craft. His passion for teaching enabled him to coach players of all skills level. In fact, he welcomed the challenge of coaching players who were not considered elite talent. If a player was a good listener, accepted constructive criticism and was eager to learn and improve, Psycho would work with you.

Psycho was never a man in a hurry. He didn't rush through concepts because with learning, he understood that pace was extremely important. He was patient and deliberate. If he tried teaching a play and found his players struggling to grasp it, he would run it again and again until the last boy or girl got it. He knew no other way. This quality endeared him to his players. They trusted his experience, knowledge, work ethic and moral principles. In turn, he taught them to be not just great players, but also excellent students of the game. This symbiotic relationship between teacher and students built basketball dynasties in Monrovia. From high school to college to national basketball, Psycho built winners. Take a look at his resume, and his genius is undeniable.

Psycho...with his Hornets team of 1984. Some pictured here are Mina Tarpeh, Gloria Metzger, Rueseal Brewer, Martha Zoegan, Sharon Brewer, Juliana S'kon Koffa (Dixon), Tidi Hodge, Williette Blossom Birch, and Quallyna Porte

Psycho also took his coaching skills on the international level. He coached Lone Star's women basketball team and won many games with them.

 

In short, Psycho won on every level he coached. But that didn't matter as much to him as the lessons he taught his players about developing good work ethic and building good relationships.

Win or lose, he was always there for his players. Winning mattered, but relationships mattered even more. Many saw him not only as coach, but as mentor, surrogate father, confidante. Long before we understood the concept of role model, Psycho was that to his players. He knew it, and took the reverence seriously. Listen to his players talk about him and you will understand why he meant so much to them. 

Psycho...with Saints 1986: Some in the picture are J. Bernard Blamo Jr, Wynston Doe and others.

Over the three decades that Psycho coached, he won over 70 championships. He won championships with varsity and junior varsity teams of St. Patrick's High School (Saints). He won championships with the Friskies of St. Teresa's Convent. And winning did not end with his high school teams.

He coached the University of Liberia women's baskeball team, and won championships with them.

In the Liberia Basketball Federation, now the Liberia Basketball Association, where he competed against the most elite talent on the national level, he won championships with the Hornets and the Nets.

Psycho ...with his 1985 Nets right after winning the 2nd Division Championship. Standing L to R: Madhavan Pillai, Zoka Harmon, Long John, Emmett Watson, Archimore Fredericks, Joe Benson, Bill Findley and the late great Coach Alexander Kojo Anderson (Psycho). Squatting L to R: Alston Wolo, Angelo, Herman Blumenthal, Musa Konneh and Lami Mason.

Psycho ...with his 1981 iteration of the Hornets picture are: Jennifer Knowlden, Onike Sherman, Dawn Garber (Russ) and Eunice Goaneh (Harris) and others.

Psycho - pictured here with Gerald Doe and Kai Davis...getting ready for a Friskies game at the YMCA.

Faustina Bonner, who played for Psycho as a  member of St. Teresa's Convent (Friskies) and Hornets 1984 basketball squads, recalls an incident where Psycho left an unforgettable impression on her life:

 

"I lost my father when I was starting my senior year in high school. At the time, it was the most difficult period in my life. When you are a teenager and dealing with the loss of a parent, you have no idea what to expect from family, let alone friends. At the cemetery on the day we buried my father, I expected to see only close family members. I lifted my head while sobbing. and to my surprise, there was Psycho. And he was not alone. He brought along every member of my team. What was striking was the look in his eyes that told me I'm here for you Faustina. From that moment on, he became my surrogate dad. As sad as I was, that moment filled my heart with so much warmth and consolation. I have never forgotten that gesture, and he remained dear to me until his death."

While many remember Psycho for his coaching brilliance, he also made significant contributions to both the development and promotion of basketball in Liberia. He serve as President of Liberia Basketball Federation, today known as Liberia Basketball Association. During his tenure, he built developmental programs for young players, enacted rules and regulations that governed the league, and assisted in drafting and enforcing league policies. He worked hard to promote the activities of the federation so that young players could get recognition beyond the borders of Liberia.

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Website: www.stcsphs.org

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