As ambassador of basketball for the Delaware Blue Coats — the G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers — Joe Richmond’s most public job is being a game-day greeter at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Delaware for Blue Coats home games.
“There could be 2,000 fans that come through the doors, and there’s not one I have not greeted,” he said. G League teams "are more intimate with our fans.”
Richmond tackles everything with unbridled enthusiasm and a smile. He keeps smiling even when you bring up the time that he coached a team that never won a single game.
Richmond served as a coach of the Washington Generals, the team that plays foil to the Harlem Globetrotters and never earns a W. He was with the Generals — which, along with the Globetrotters, fields several traveling teams at a time — for five years, until 2012, as a referee and coach.
“It was so much fun,” said Richmond, 54, a South Philadelphia High graduate and Navy veteran. “We put the greatest smiles on kids faces, and I loved it.”
To him, seeing kids smile was the best part of the job. The worst part was the travel — more than 35 countries and all 50 states at least twice — which finally wore him down.
“You get to the point where you say, ‘How many times can you see Alaska?’” he said.
He has been with the Blue Coats since the Delaware franchise’s inception in 2013 and was named the team’s ambassador of basketball in August of 2017.
One of his favorite projects has been the Blue Coats’ Books & Basketball Children’s Literacy Program. The program recently surpassed distributing 50,000 books to schools, libraries, and rec centers since it started in 2016.
“He did a presentation in our school with the [Blue Coats] mascot, and the kids loved him,” said Terrance Newton, principal of Warner Elementary School in Wilmington. “He talked to the kids, telling them how important reading is, encouraged them to read, and gave each person five books.”
There are 403 students in the school, and Richmond met each one, according to Newton.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Richmond estimated that he was making several appearances a week for the team, conducting the reading program and appearing at other functions.
Even now, he has continued with a virtual reading program, with the help of team mascot Coaty. Not surprisingly, Richmond’s passion for reading books such as “There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Shell” comes screaming through the screen.
Richmond’s older brother, who he refers to as “Big Mike,” is somebody he has always looked up to. The 6-foot-8 Mike Richmond played at South Philadelphia High, excelled at the University of Texas El-Paso (UTEP), and became a third-round draft pick of the Dallas Mavericks in 1987. Big Mike enjoyed a career playing in Europe. Now he’s a coach for one of the traveling Washington Generals teams and is losing every bit as much as his brother did.
“I get paid to lose,” Big Mike said, laughing. “If I win, I get fired.”
Big Mike says his brother is truly unique.
“Joe is a really special kid,” he said. “He has such a great personality and will bend over backwards for people. He’s a jack-of-all-trades and can do 1,000 things and be good at them.”
Joe Richmond relishes interacting with the public, whether taking part in a reading program, making personal appearances for the team, or mixing it up with fans at a Blue Coats game.
He says he can’t wait until the time he can get back to that, greeting fans at games and visiting kids in schools.