Mik Kilgore, former Temple star, earns his degree 25 years later

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Mik Kilgore will receive his degree this week.

Mik Kilgore has enjoyed many titles in his life, from college basketball standout to mortgage banker, insurance broker, and bar owner, but he will never be as proud of the one he will have soon: college graduate.

Kilgore will be walking the aisle at Temple on Thursday, picking up his degree in criminal justice a quarter of a century after playing his last game for John Chaney's Owls in 1992.

"I am more proud of earning my degree than anything I accomplished in basketball," Kilgore, 46, said last week.

If the former star wanted to pursue coaching, he discovered, he needed that degree. His good friend and former teammate Aaron McKie was among the people who suggested to Kilgore that he should go back and earn it.

McKie is a current Temple assistant who played 13 NBA seasons, including eight with the 76ers, and was a Sixers assistant for six years.

"I think it is awesome that he is getting his degree," McKie said. "He had regrets from not doing it, but the beauty in life is that you get a second chance."

It wasn't easy returning to college. Kilgore said he needed 33 credits for his degree and it took about a year and a half to accomplish. "I took a heavy load," he said.

Keeping up with the younger students, was a challenge, he said, but Kilgore was able to adapt. He said he earned a 3.4 grade point average for those final 33 credits.

Kilgore said he wants to get into coaching at any level. He is ready to send out two different types of resumes - one for jobs in criminal justice and another for coaching positions.

He has limited coaching experience, having assisted a girls' high school team, Providence St. Mel in Chicago, in 2001.

Yet Kilgore has often sat in on Temple practices and has worked several basketball camps. Watching Temple coach Fran Dunphy and his assistants work has been a great learning experience, Kilgore said.

It brought him back to Temple, where his basketball accomplishments were plentiful.

A graduate of West Philadelphia High, Kilgore improved his scoring each year with the Owls. A silky 6-foot-9 forward, he averaged 8.0 points as a freshman, 10.8 as a sophomore, 14.0 in his junior season, and 14.5 as a senior.

He scored 1,471 points in 124 games and played on three NCAA tournament teams, including the 1991 squad that advanced to the Elite Eight before losing, 75-72, to North Carolina in the East Regional final.

"The greatest thrill I had playing at Temple was making it to the tournament," Kilgore said. "As you advance, it gets better each stage."

Kilgore said he can remember his last Temple game like it was yesterday. The Owls suffered a 73-66 loss to Michigan in the first round of the 1992 NCAA tournament.

That was a Michigan team that was known as the Fab Five, with five freshmen starting, including future NBA first-round draft choices Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose.

"It was a pretty close game and they pulled away at the end," said Kilgore, who had seven points, seven rebounds and four assists in his final game.

Temple had trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half but took a two-point lead in the second half on a basket by Mark Strickland. Michigan then went on a 10-0 run to put the game away.

When asked which of the Fab Five he guarded, Kilgore responded, "I guarded them all."

Although he never made it to the NBA, Kilgore said he enjoyed his time playing professionally in Italy, France, Taiwan, and Venezuela.

"It was a lot of places, usually one year at a time," he said. "It was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute.

"During those years, when you were playing overseas, you had to do everything and score all the points. If you weren't doing well, they sent you home and if you played overseas, there was a 90 percent chance you were doing well."

He stopped playing at age 30 and pursued interests outside the sport. Now he could be coming back to basketball.

And when he receives his degree, Kilgore will be teaching some valuable lessons to others.

"Once removed from college, it is kind of hard to go back in that environment, return to school, and finish," McKie said. "There are a lot of guys who played college basketball and didn't finish school, so this is a testament to Mik as a person."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard