The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

Aaron Gordon’s Journey from Mitty Star to NBA Champion

Coach TK details his experiences with Aaron Gordon, from his time at Mitty to watching Game 5 of the NBA Finals in person.
Aaron Gordon and Coach Kennedy both holding the Championship Trophy after the Denver Nuggets won the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

When bringing up the legends of Mitty sports, few names ring louder than Aaron Gordon. With Gordon being an all-American, a state champion, a decorated college player, and even an NBA Champ, it’s obvious to see why. His jerseys are placed across campus, and his highlights endlessly play in the foyer, but few know Gordon and Gordon’s journey as well as his former coach, Tim Kennedy. So, we spoke to the man who was alongside Gordon at  nearly every stage of his basketball career to learn more about the legend of Aaron Gordon and Coach Kennedy’s experiences with him.

Aaron Gordon piled up 33 points and 20 rebounds in Archbishop Mitty’s Division II state championship game victory over La Costa Canyon (Dennis )

Growing up in the same house with older brother Drew Gordon who would go on to achieve All-American honors and a scholarship to UCLA, Aaron wanted to carve out his own path, as opposed to living in his brother’s shadow.

I think he wanted to create his own legacy,” Kennedy said. Sibling rivalry aside, Gordon immediately stood out when he joined Mitty. “As a freshman, he was one of our bigger guys,” Kennedy said. The team would play him at every position, utilizing his god-given talent alongside his already solid skills. “We would, at times, throw him into the post where he had an advantage,” said Kennedy. “And he was more than willing to do that, just to help the team win.” 

Throughout his four years at Mitty, the growth in Gordon’s game was evident. His basketball IQ grew substantially. Being the star player on the team, Gordon was often double teamed, or even triple teamed. Uncomfortable situations such as these allowed him to be able to see the court from many different angles. And as his game developed, his competitive fire grew.

“I think his biggest strength was his competitiveness. Just his knack for the ball and his willingness to do whatever it takes to win,” Kennedy said. Gordon’s high motor and athleticism jumped off the page immediately, but to Coach Kennedy, his true potential became evident the summer before Sophomore year. Kennedy said, “The way he was able to rebound a ball, just over people, it stood out. You know, just watching the game you can see that he’s getting rebounds outside of his zone. That’s not normal for a high school kid.” 

After a successful year at the University of Arizona, where he earned PAC-12 freshman of the year, Gordon decided to take his talents to the NBA. Throughout high school, Gordon and Kennedy always talked about how the NBA was a major goal. The dream of every player and coach came to fruition, and Kennedy got to witness it live when he was invited to Gordon’s draft day. Kennedy knew that Gordon would be a top 10 pick, but he didn’t expect Gordon to get drafted fourth overall by the Orlando Magic. As soon as he heard Gordon’s name called, “time froze in my head, and I just couldn’t believe what happened,” said Kennedy. Seeing the young man he once coached play in college was “pretty special” in itself, but seeing him get drafted was, “one of the ultimate moments.”

Being a top 4 pick, Gordon had high expectations placed on him instantly. However, it didn’t work out for him in Orlando, as the team struggled for his first few years. “Other guys were somewhat selfish sometimes and cared more about their own stats, not caring about winning. That’s frustrating,” Kennedy said, “He wasn’t in the right position to be successful in Orlando, and he struggled with that–and losing will take its toll.” But even through all the shortcomings, Gordon showed flashes of his potential greatness. 

His raw athleticism was shown off early in his career, as he was named a finalist in 3 NBA Dunk Contests. In 2016, he placed second, a controversy that is still discussed today. Kennedy said, “Everyone kind of knew that he was the winner.” While he lost, Gordon used this dunk contest to fuel his competitiveness and mental toughness. 

Orlando’s Stuff the Magic Dragon mascot was impressed with Aaron Gordon’s Dunk Contest Slam. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Three years ago, Gordon was traded from the Magic to the Denver Nuggets, a move that would change his life. Coach Kennedy was, “very excited just because Aaron struggled in Orlando,” and thought Denver’s “winning culture,” would serve Gordon well. Gordon flourished in Denver, where his role as a lockdown defender and serving as the 3rd option on the offense complemented his skill set perfectly. His chemistry with stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic made his Orlando days seem like a blip of the past. In 2023, the team was fully healthy for the first time, and they breezed into the NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals between the Heat and the Nuggets only went to five games. Coach TK was following the series closely and had the opportunity of a lifetime to attend game 5. He flew out on the morning of the game, and when he arrived in Denver he got to take it all in for the first time. He went for a run near the stadium and described it as a, “surreal thing,” as he saw “posters of Aaron everywhere and all the Denver Nuggets and the media.”

After a few hours, he finally walked into the stadium. His seats were at halfcourt and he watched the back and forth battle as Miami fought for their season. The atmosphere was electric and the entire stadium was tense as the game reached the end. As the game came to a close, and the result became more clear, he went to the stadium floor where he saw Russel Wilson and Ciara courtside. Seeing the confetti comedown was a moment that, “just sticks with you for the rest of your life.” Kennedy couldn’t be more, “proud and just excited to be a part of that.” It was still surreal to him that a player he used to coach was an NBA Champion.

The days following were a time of celebration. Kennedy was able to meet the entire team and see their Championship celebration firsthand. Afterwards, he went to Gordon’s, “hangout pad,” which had a gym, relaxation areas, and a basketball court. He called it, “a once in a lifetime type of situation where all these guys I’m hanging out with, normally, you know, you’re just seeing on TV.”

Aaron Gordon and the Nuggets look to repeat as champions this year. With a similar lineup as last year, it wouldn’t be out of the realm to see TK and Aaron Gordon holding another championship trophy come June.