Equip­ment man­ager sends Christ­mas cheer

Bas­ket­ball team at Detroit Denby re­ceives free shoes

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY ROD BEARD The Detroit News

Detroit — Pis­tons equip­ment man­ager John Coumoundouros re­mem­bers the 2011 sea­son well — what there was of it.

The NBA lock­out lasted 161 days and the sea­son didn’t start un­til Christ­mas Day. That meant 161 days of won­der­ing and wor­ry­ing for Coumoundouros, who wasn’t get­ting a pay­check dur­ing the lock­out.

“Not too long ago, dur­ing the lock­out year, I was barely get­ting food for my house and my kids and my power and gas were go­ing out,” Coumoundouros said. “Get­ting that feel­ing when you use your debit card, won­der­ing whether it was go­ing to work this time. I was go­ing through that a lot.

“Now, I’m for­tu­nate enough to give back, so I want to do it in any way pos­si­ble.”

That feel­ing of go­ing with­out didn’t es­cape Coumoundouros — and when he heard about oth­ers in need, he jumped to find a way to help. A friend of his mother

found out that the girls bas­ket­ball team at Detroit Denby High School didn’t have shoes and other equip­ment as they pre­pare to start their sea­son.

Coumoundouros quickly thought of a way to help. He en­listed the help of Pis­tons guard Langston Gal­loway, who is a shoe afi­cionado, and they put to­gether a plan. They in­vited the en­tire Denby team to Fri­day’s game against the Philadel­phia 76ers and pre­sented them gift back­packs with new shoes, socks, tow­els and other gifts, be­fore the game.

“Orig­i­nally, I said, let’s split the cost and get them shoes from Nike,” he said. “(Our rep) from Nike found out what was go­ing on and he comped the shoes. I took the money I was go­ing to use to buy the shoes with and got food vouch­ers for them.”

Coumoundouros en­listed Blake Grif­fin, An­dre Drum­mond, Khyri Thomas and oth­ers to wel­come the Denby girls, who sat in the front row in pregame and watched the Pis­tons warm up.

“It was cool,” junior Zanaija McIn­tyre. “No­body ever in­vited me to any saidthing like this. It was a good feel­ing.”

The girls’ faces lit up with ex­cite­ment as they got their gift bags, as Drum­mond and Thomas called each girl by name to present the bags. The big­ger sur­prise was Grif­fin com­ing out to greet them per­son­ally.

“It was a true bless­ing,” Denby coach Bird Sul­li­van said. “When they reached out to me, it was a sur­real feel­ing. Some of these girls have never had a real pair of bas­ket­ball shoes.”

For Coumoundouros, it’s just a way of giv­ing back to the Detroit com­mu­nity, with an ad­di­tional bas­ket­ball con­nec­tion.

“That’s lit­er­ally why we’re here,” he said. “I al­ways get jeal­ous of the play­ers be­ing able to do it so eas­ily (for char­ity). I wanted to do like they do, so it feels good.”

Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News

Detroit’s Bruce Brown, cen­ter, bat­tles for­mer Pis­ton Amir Johnson, left, and Jimmy But­ler on Fri­day.

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