Former NBA player to speak to Bethany student-athletes

By Bethany College Sports Information
August 10, 2015
Bethany College Sports Information

LINDSBORG — As fall student-athletes move to Bethany College and begin preseason camp week, Bethany will welcome a special guest to campus. 

On Tuesday, former Iowa State basketball star Paul Shirley will address Swedes fall student-athletes for the second consecutive year, beginning at 9 p.m. in the Burnett Center.

"My return to Lindsborg can mostly be attributed to my love of the Swedish match books I found at an adorable store downtown," Shirley said. "Also, I really liked the students I got to talk to, and am looking forward to talking to them (and some new ones) this year."

Shirley is a former professional basketball player who now writes, teaches, speaks and runs a writing workshop in Los Angeles. He recently finished a book titled “Stories I tell on Dates,” and he began PenCoach, where he helps people finish writing projects they are struggling with.

"We are excited to welcome Paul Shirley back to Bethany College," said Dane Pavlovich, Dean of Athletics and Student Development. "His message to our student-athletes last year was very well received and everyone is looking forward to what he will share this year. He has such a unique perspective and background that he will be able connect all who are in attendance."

The chief goal of Shirley's address will be discussing failure and how athletics and failure can shape student-athletes' lives.

"I'm going to be talking a lot about failure," Shirley said. "I'm something of an expert on the subject, which makes it easy to talk about. I also think failure is something very important to the average college graduate these days: we don't get to have jobs like our parents did. Instead, we're going to have, like, 12 different ones. And along the way, we're all going to fail a lot. Athletics has the ability to teach us how to deal with all this failing, because sports is often an exercise in failing...a lot. More important, though: sports is an exercise in learning how to deal with all that failing. So I'll do my best to explain how I think college athletics can give students a leg up on the competition, because it is inevitable that the sportsman or sportswoman will have failed a lot more than average."

Shirley was born in Redwood City, Calif., and grew up near Meriden, Kan. He played high school basketball at Jefferson West High School prior to playing for the Iowa State University Cyclones. Upon graduation, Shirley played for 13 different professional basketball teams: the NBA teams the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, and the Chicago Bulls; and Panionios Athens of the Greek A1 League, Joventut Badalona, ViveMenorca, Unicaja Malaga of the Spanish ACB League, and UNICS Kazan of the Russian Super League.

While playing professionally in Greece when he was 23 years old, Shirley started writing journal entries, and has since continued to do so. While playing for the Phoenix Suns, the team asked him to write for their website, thus bringing Shirley's writing public as he composed his "Road Ramblings" blog.

Shirley then signed a book deal and wrote a book, titled “Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond,” published by Random House in 2007. Professional basketball ended four years ago for Shirley, and he has since developed his writing career. He has written for Esquire, Slate,, and The Wall Street Journal. Shirley is the chief editor for FlipCollective.

Shirley has presented talks about his books and writings at Varsity Letters in New York, for Dia de Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain, in Spanish, and for various elementary schools and high schools in the Midwest.