Lt. Scott Collins of the Inglewood Police Department knows what it means to give and take. He’s been a giver for most of his life. For more than three decades, Collins has served as a public servant in his professional duties as a police officer. His time spent endlessly volunteering, coaching and mentoring young people throughout the city of Inglewood has been part of his philanthropic DNA a lot longer.
Playing sports at a young age turned out to be the drawing card for his charitable ambition, Collins said.
“I’ve been kind of doing it all my life, really,” Collins said. “Even as a teenager, a young person, I was involved in sports all the time. So, the things I learned from playing sports I would always come down back to my block where I lived and teach the younger kids, even my siblings, the things I learned…how I was being coached back then. As I got older, when I was in high school, one of my friend’s father, right down the street, was coaching a Little League team in Inglewood, and he asked me to be an assistant coach on the team with him. I was only 16 or 17 years old, so I was coaching then, even at that age.”
That early introduction to coaching helped shaped Collins’ mindset in working with youths. It didn’t hurt that his participation in sports gave him the necessary background to tutor youngsters looking to be the next great NBA star or NFL legend. Future Hall of Fame inductee and retired NBA great Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers) was one of those kids.
Collins first interaction with Pierce came when the Boston Celtics’ all-time leading scorer was still in elementary school and was playing basketball in the Police Activities League (PAL). Collins was in the middle of an extended coaching stint when he came across Pierce. Collins developed a strong mentoring bond with Pierce, so much so that he would later become a volunteer assistant coach at Inglewood High School from 1992 through 2012, including coaching on the Sentinels’ 1994 CIF-title winning team.
Collins is somewhat giddy about seeing and watching someone he knows personally like Pierce makes it to the bright lights of the NBA.
“When you talk about Paul, somebody who’s involved in basketball like that, basketball is my favorite sport, so to see him…to have somebody I know like Paul to make it, what he’s done, that blows me away. It’s something we would have never thought would happen.”
Pierce is far from being the only person whose early trenches in life has been shaped and developed by the words and deeds of Collins. His success story as a coach and mentor is all over Inglewood. Pierce is only one of a bucket full of people who have had their lives transformed by Collins.
“Everybody focuses on Paul because of his success,” Collins said. “I am just as excited and proud of some of the other kids that haven’t had success on a national level but have had success and they turned out to be good people, raising their own kids, being family men, working hard as businessmen. Some have gone on to become attorneys, so I’m just as extremely proud of them, too.”
Inside or outside of his police uniform, Collins is a walking goodwill ambassador. Helping others fulfill their potential in life is something he’s very passionate about. Giving back is not a directive that Collins have to stand and wait for someone to give to him in order to motivate those who need encouraging. He’s all about helping others.
His tireless interactions with youths around the city have grabbed the attention of more than a few people. In 2016, the city of Inglewood honored Collins for his community involvement. Famed sportscaster Fred Rogan also gave a nod to Collins on his television show on NBC.
“Even though it’s about me, it’s really not about me,” said Collins. “It’s about what so many people can get from the documentary. It’s really a good project. There are so many avenues that people can get from this as far as relationships between cops and kids, some of the relations when you have single-parent homes…It’s a lot of different things.”
As he filters through what sports have to offer young people, some use this platform as a gateway to get away from their neighborhood or community surroundings or just as a vehicle for something to do, Collins said.
“It provides them with an outlet,” said Collins. “Sometimes it provides them with an outlet or even a safe haven. I remember growing up, a lot of kids that played sports, a lot of those cats, some of them lived in those rough areas, the gang members would not mess with the athletes because they know they’re athletes. That kind of sometimes, not always, that gives them that pass for that. It also gives the kids an outlet from any stress or whatever. We all need them too.”
Collins speaks from experience on this topic. He has had his share of dealing with unwanted stress and amid life’s setbacks. The dissolving of his first marriage was an epic ordeal that he had to overcome with his current spouse, J. Vivianna Gomez-Collins.
“My wife has been there,” Collins said. “She’s been my rock. I came out of a previous marriage, and I was pretty much a broken man. I was a broken person and she put me back together.”
The murder of his 19-year-old son, Steven Joshua Collins, in 2005, would test Collins’ faith in a way it had never been tried before. The well of strength that he draws from in dealing with that heartbreak comes from keeping Steven’s memory alive through the work he does and the plant he sows through helping young people.
“I draw a lot of strength from his memory,” Collins said. “I call him my guardian. He’s my guardian angel. I pray to him that he keeps an eye out on his family, on me, his brothers and sisters. He’s the one I pray to. He gives me strength. There are a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have done before or have the courage to do because he was the kind of guy if there was something he wanted to do, he would do it. He would take that chance. I’ve kind of taken that attitude myself in my life.”
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Wave