Coach Tim Brennan has worked with Jabari Parker and other NBA stars. Now he’s using Operation Basketball to help Chicago kids

BRONZEVILLE — A prominent basketball coach who works with Jabari Parker and Talen Horton-Tucker is using his platform to create more opportunities for the city’s youth.

Tim Brennan, co-founder of the non-profit organization Operation Basketball, has spent the summer organizing vaccination campaigns, enrolling children in summer jobs, teaching them trades and providing them with skills. services directly by driving around a yellow school bus with a basketball hoop attached to the front.

Brennan co-founded Operation Basketball last year with Mike Holder, owner of West Town streetwear store Congruent Space. The duo tapped into their relationships with the powerful brokers of sports culture – Nike, Wilson, Under Armor and the Chicago pro hoopers – to develop programs to benefit young people.

Operation Basketball received a $15,000 Freedom Summer 2022 Fund grant from My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative created by the Obama Foundation. The organization gave $1 million in grants to nonprofits this year.

This financial support helped Operation Basketball host its first community basketball game Friday at Robert Taylor Park, 49 W. 47th St. Participants could register to vote, get shots, apply for jobs and play the game for free.

Parker was all smiles as he slid to the edge for dunks and then stayed for photos with kids, while Brennan worked the room greeting and thanking attendees.

“Trainers have platforms, and I think that comes with an obligation,” Brennan said. “Often, we have a duality of customers, players who come from means and those who do not. If we want to be part of the culture, we have to elevate everything.

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Jabari Parker helps Operation Basketball kick off its first annual community game at Robert Taylor Park in Bronzeville

Brennan grew up attending free clinics in Washington Park hosted by Sonny Parker, a former NBA player, foundation organizer and father of Jabari Parker. From the Parker family, Brennan learned “the power of basketball as a tool to connect community,” he said.

Brennan played at Lincoln Park High School and managed to work for Tim Grover, coach of stars such as Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant.

After four years of Division I ball at Western Michigan University, Brennan “got on the first train to Chicago,” he said. He scoured the city for open-door gyms and promising young players who would try his luck.

One of Brennan’s first clients was Lucas Williamson, before the famous Loyola Ramblers Final Four in 2018.

“I just went to Lucas and told him the truth; talked about what I knew, that I was curious about his game, that I wanted to learn, and that I wanted the best for him,” Brennan said. “From there, it was all about networking. You will be amazed at what being a person of your word and integrity can do for you.

Brennan now trains hundreds of Chicago players a year, from NBA clients to rookie kids, “trying to help the whole city get better,” he said.

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Operation Basketball co-founders Tim Brennan and Mike Holder pose for a photo during their community basketball game at Robert Taylor Park on August 26, 2022.
Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Brennan thanks the fans for coming out to Operation Basketball’s first annual community game.

Brennan met Holder at a basketball and fashion event, brainstormed a nonprofit that included both, and named it Operation Basketball because “it just sounded cool,” Brennan said.

Over the summer, Brennan was asked to drive the Hoopsbus, a partnership with the Chicago Bulls and nonprofit Breakthrough Urban Ministries that brought a basketball hoop, community days and social services on wheels to the doorsteps of more than a dozen CPS schools.

The goal was to enroll 1,000 Chicago children for 1,000 summer jobs, keeping them safe and busy, Brennan said.

Holder secured a sponsorship from Wilson and helped run Stitch Lab, a space for kids to learn financial literacy and design their own clothes.

Operation Basketball is now a CPS provider that creates after-school programs centered around sports careers and sports culture, Holder said. They operate from Marie Sklodowska Curie Metropolitan High School on the southwest side, CPS spokesman Evan Moore said.

The next steps are to hire more staff, build a network of volunteers and create sustainable programs, Holder said. Operation Basketball is seeking additional grants so its events aren’t just one-offs with big sponsors, Holder said.

“We need to keep coming back to these kids on a regular basis,” Holder said. “They need to see us in their communities, to show them that we care.”

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Basketball MC DeAndre “Face Mobb” Barnes and Power 92 give a child free tickets to Six Flags at the Operation Basketball community game.
Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Operation Basketball co-founder Tim Brennan rummages through jerseys before his first annual community basketball game.

As the nonprofit grows, Brennan said he’ll be spending his extra time at the gym this summer with the town’s local hero – former Simeon star and second-choice Parker – as he is looking to make another NBA comeback.

“I never had a coach before Tim, but now I finally have the opportunity to slow things down on my own, to prepare and perfect some aspects of my game,” Parker said. “I trust Tim because he’s been my friend since we were young. I know he’s selfless, so it’s easy to support him and for us to support our community.

Chicago’s basketball community is tight-knit with great potential, Brennan said. Ahead of Friday’s game, the coach addressed the crowd as several of his players huddled around him.

“It’s about bringing people together in a band, and basketball is an opportunity to do that,” Brennan said. “I want to thank all my friends for coming to play and supporting me. And if you’re here and I don’t know you, you’re a friend now.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every penny we earn funds neighborhoods across Chicago.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Thank you for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every penny we make funds Chicago neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s Alright: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”:

About Kimberly Alley

Check Also

If NBA draft age drops, college basketball will feel the pinch

The prep-to-pro pipeline is likely back in the NBA, and with it will come major …