“Meet the Mobleys” is a five-part series about Isaiah, Evan and Eric Mobley’s relationship and impact on USC basketball.
“C’mon man … you’ve seen the video.”
In the spirit of comparing the Mobleys to other basketball families, we asked Eric Mobley about a hypothetical one-on-one game against the flamboyant LaVar Ball. He’s referencing the viral videos of LaVar’s mediocre basketball skills complemented by his exemplary showmanship.
Both fathers have coached and molded their sons into great talents, but in many ways, Eric’s also the antithesis to LaVar. He approaches basketball like an artisan treats his craft — with humble dedication and years of experience — and he passed that mentality on to his sons.
At one point, Eric was a talented player himself. Standing 6 feet 7 inches tall yet trained as a point guard, he played collegiately at Portland and Cal Poly Pomona and professionally in Portugal, Mexico and Indonesia. He sharpened his basketball acumen and picked up important life lessons along the way, and his career voyage shaped his outlook on coaching and fatherhood.
He established the Triple Threat youth basketball program in 2007 with the intention of building positive characters through athletics, and it served as his inroads into a coaching career. In the years since, he’s forged strong relationships with players, parents and other coaches who respect his dedication to athletes on and off the court.
“It’s his demeanor, personality and experience,” said Etop Udo-Ema, who brought on Eric as a coach for the Compton Magic in 2017. “Mobley’s been doing youth sports forever, doing this grassroots thing forever, but he’s been doing it authentically. He’s helping people, helping high school coaches, helping college coaches and really wanting nothing back.”
In the process of scouting and recruiting Isaiah and Evan, USC head coach Andy Enfield was introduced to Eric. It didn’t take long for Enfield to become intrigued with Eric’s work, so much so that he found himself recruiting all three Mobleys, offering Eric an assistant coaching position.
“Andy watched me for a good year coach AAU,” Eric said. “He was going to the games and checking my mannerisms, how I coached the kids and how I was adjusting to kids and their personalities. He’d ask me weird questions, but all along he was scouting me.”
Enfield admitted that he asked about Eric’s background more than any other coach, inquiring about his AAU programs and how he trained Isaiah and Evan as children.
“I was inquisitive and very impressed with his honesty and energy, not only toward his own two boys but the entire program,” he said. “As I got closer to thinking about a potential assistant coach job on our staff, it was important for me to have a better understanding of who he is as a person.”
Eric officially accepted the position in 2018 after 11 years of coaching in the youth ranks.
Both as a coach and a father, Eric stresses the balance of sport and character. For Isaiah and Evan, that meant picking up skills outside of basketball.
“They swim, they all boogie board, Evan dabbled on the piano … they’re open to trying anything,” Eric said. “That’s what I like about them. That’s how I raised them.”
He drew on his experience to instill basic basketball fundamentals into Isaiah and Evan as children, and shared with them his affinity for exploration.
“Not all our pennies are in basketball,” Isaiah explained. “Of course a lot of them are, but we just do what we do.”
The message of well-roundedness is shared by the boys’ mother Nicol Mobley, a schoolteacher who also won a state championship as a high school basketball player. She made sure the sons valued education and understood the importance of character as much as they loved basketball.
“Once I got to know Isaiah and Evan, I realized the job Nicol and Eric have done to raise them; you could tell the humbleness and worth ethic,” Enfield said. “They were just nice young men. Our whole coaching staff really fell in love with the whole family.”
When the Mobleys make waves, it’s usually the brothers who are the center of attention — and deservedly so. Whether it’s their tremendous basketball skill set or surprisingly modest demeanor, fans, coaches and journalists alike flock to them to understand the Mobley family. But the story would not be complete without Eric — the main influence and architect of their shared talents and values.