Charter school coach helps Oakland kids find success

OAKLAND (KTVU) -- Jon Vinson says he has spent two decades doing something he is passionate about: coaching young kids to play basketball.

He insists it is a way to keep them disciplined, engaged and focused. That's why he pays many of their basketball expenses out of his own pocket and raises money through donations and car washes.

But the statewide drought has limited his ability to generate funds from washing cars, which is why a year ago he started driving for Uber to supplement his income as a varsity basketball coach at Envision Academy, an Oakland charter school.

Officials at Uber heard about Vinson's community work and teamed up with the Warriors on Monday to honor the coach with a surprise gift: tickets for the coach and his players to attend the highly anticipated Warriors game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"It's surreal and exciting!" he said. "I was a little overwhelmed but it was nice."

The surprise recognition actually came last week when Warriors center Zaza Pachulia visited Vinson and his team before their game against another high school.

He also gave Vinson tickets to the Warriors game so he could bring the teens.

"It gives them more of a push (and) energy," Vinson said. "It does a lot."

"To have that spirit of generosity and give so much to these kids is just an incredible spirit and that generous spirit really stood out to us," said Jay Gierak, Uber's Bay Area general manager. "It's what we all aspire to."

Vinson says he founded Defensive Basketball Club in Oakland 20 years ago because too many young people were dying on the streets of Oakland, the victims of gang and gun violence.

"My oldest brother died in a homicide in 2011," said Dariu Deloney, 15. "I really wasn't into sports or anything."

The teen credits Coach Vinson for putting him on the right track.

"He's been a father figure (and) a mentor to me," Darius said.

Vinson said he wants to give his mentors a place "for them to go (and give them) a place for them to be successful (and) grow up and be productive citizens."

One teen from East Oakland says this experience shows him a life beyond the violence that has snared many of his friends and loved ones.

"It means a lot," said Keshad Johnson. "A lot of kids like me don't get to experience even being at Oracle."

Coach Vinson says he hopes to teach the teens to be a student of the game and become a better person by "becoming a great person and building teamwork and relationships (and) winning in life. It's about being a family." 

Vinson says his game plan is to continue to help young people stay focus and alive and to achieve success on and off the basketball court.

By KTVU reporter Amber Lee.