Opinion: Au Revoir, Pierre Henderson-Niles
"He's going in one direction, and we're going another."
This was the synopsis of Pierre Henderson-Niles’s unexpected departure that Memphis Tigers coach Josh Pastner provided the media on Tuesday at the Finch Center.
This was the brief and simple summary of the otherwise long and complex college career of Pierre Henderson-Niles.
Seven and one-third semesters.
A lifetime of memories.
And now, it’s over.
For the former Ridgeway High School prospect, who was formally released from the team Monday night, the roller coaster ride that best describes his college basketball career has finally come to a screeching halt.
Absurd Facebook posts and an increasingly bad attitude—toward fans, teammates, and coaches—all played a part in Henderson-Niles’s ultimate ousting.
"He and I have had many talks throughout the season. He knew,” Pastner explained. “Again, it's just one of those things where, for whatever reason, he saw things in a different way than I saw things—and I'm the head coach—and what I saw, I feel is best for this team, university, and program."
So, how did Henderson-Niles see things?
For most, Henderson-Niles’s perspective is difficult to decipher.
As incomprehensible as it may seem, Henderson-Niles may not understand himself where he stands today.
His organized basketball-playing days are over. During the only collegiate season in which he received significant playing time, he was dismissed.
But things didn’t have to be this way. Henderson-Niles could’ve been the vocal senior leader of this year’s Tigers. Henderson-Niles had every opportunity to turn his entire career—and life—around and leave the University of Memphis on a high note.
But he didn’t. He became an emotional cog, not only in practice or in games, but also in the locker room.
Early in the season, Henderson-Niles was as chatty as anybody after a game. Recently, however, Henderson-Niles said nothing after games, win or lose.
Which, unfortunately, fans have come to expect from the troubled senior.
“Nun to tell,” Henderson-Niles told Fox-13 through a text message when asked about possibly doing a story.
Nothing to tell? At all?
So, after a formal dismissal from the team of a university that offered him a full scholarship, Henderson-Niles has no comment?
That, in a nutshell, is Pierre Henderson-Niles.
That is the direction that Pierre Henderson-Niles is headed in.
Through Facebook, Twitter, and other public domains, Henderson-Niles has shown a significant lack of humility and maturity by posting both questionable and derogatory statements.
This is the legacy that Pierre Henderson-Niles will leave behind.
Fans won’t remember Pierre Henderson-Niles for his comeback. Fans won’t remember Henderson-Niles for the 80-pound weight loss.
Instead, fans will remember Henderson-Niles for his stupefying behavior.
Fans will remember Henderson-Niles for his lack of participation in the timeout huddle during the Gonzaga game just because Will Coleman, his counterpart, was having a better day on the court.
Which is a shame. Overshadowed by these discrepancies is Henderson-Niles’s unmatched work ethic. Henderson-Niles, who had gotten up to 350 pounds in past years, weighed in at 278 pounds at the beginning of the season. And it’s not like coaches, teammates, and fans didn’t want to see him succeed, either.
Willie Kemp, Henderson-Niles’s teammate of four years, still fully supports him.
“He was a big part of this team. He just had some things going on, but he knows we’re a phone call away,” Kemp said after the UCF win, his first without Henderson-Niles as a teammate. “We know he’s a phone call away. He’s still our teammate and we still love him like a brother.”
However, as big a part Henderson-Niles may have played, the posts on Facebook coupled with a steadily declining attitude proved too much for first-year coach Josh Pastner.
“It was just, we’re going one direction, and he (Henderson-Niles) is going another,” Pastner said.
What could’ve been a success story for Josh Pastner and The University of Memphis has turned into a sad one, plagued by confusion and missed chances.
Four years ago, of course, this sequence was unforeseeable.
“I grew up watching Memphis, and have always wanted to play there,” Henderson-Niles said as he committed to The University of Memphis in August of 2005.
“This is a dream,” he said.
But that dream, for various reasons, never came to fruition.
Now, Memphis fans, teammates, and coaches alike are anxiously waiting to see if he’ll ever wake up from it.
John Martin is a TSR Staff Writer and can be reached by e-mail at
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