As soon as Tug Coker was cast as Larry Bird, the legendary Hall of Fame forward for the NBA's Boston Celtics, in the new Broadway play Magic/Bird, he drove to French Lick, Ind., where Bird grew up. He also visited Indiana State University in Terre Haute to see where Bird had played college ball. "I was a Celtics fan growing up," says Coker (Col '00). "It's humbling to think that Larry Bird even knows I exist."
On the opening night of Magic/Bird in April, both Bird and Magic Johnson, the equally legendary guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, were in the audience to watch the play about their on-court rivalry and off-court friendship.
Coker played basketball in high school. In college, he was a member of the basketball team at William and Mary for a year and, when he transferred, had hoped to join the UVA basketball team. "It was crushing when I didn't make the cut," says Coker. "I love the camaraderie of team sports." Instead of playing basketball, Coker became involved with theater and took drama classes from John Loschmann in the UVA drama department.
If he'd made the team, Coker says, he may not have become an actor. He may never have taken acting classes in San Francisco or earned his MFA at the American Repertory Theater Institute at Harvard University. He may never have appeared on television in The Office, How I Met Your Mother or CSI. And he may never have been able to step onto a Broadway stage and present Larry Bird's life story to the man himself.