Eric Chenowith’s neighbors in Corona Del Mar, California, know where the 7-footer’s sports loyalties reside.
“I have a KU flag in front of my house. I wear KU workout gear to the gym. I go to the watch parties in Orange County. I am a total fan,” Chenowith, the 35-year-old former Kansas University center from Orange, California, said.
Chenowith, who played for the Jayhawks from 1998 to 2001, has attended numerous KU games in Lawrence and on the road since he’s left KU. He wasn’t about to pass up a chance to return for the recent 60 Years of Basketball Reunion, celebrating 60 years of hoops in Allen Fieldhouse as well as the four living coaches — Ted Owens, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self.
“I thought it was great, really cool just to have those coaches on one stage at the same time. I think it was really special,” said Chenowith, who currently works as an insurance producer for Parq Advisors in Beverly Hills, California.
“It was great for the fans to thank all the coaches for what they’ve done. A standing ovation for coach Williams I thought showed how classy our fans are. This gave them a chance to finally stand and applaud coach Williams. I just thought it was great.”
Chenowith, who played for Williams, has become a friend of current KU coach Self. He attended the Final Four semifinal victory over North Carolina during the 2008 title season, having to miss the final against Memphis in San Antonio because of his Idaho Stampede NBA Developmental League game. Chenowith had an eight-year pro career playing with eight different NBA organizations, D-League teams and international squads.
“I had a ballboy give me updates,” Chenowith said, adding, “I love coach Self. I think he’s blown away anybody’s expectations — the national championship, 10 straight conference championships, that’s unheard of. He has done an amazing job. Second part to that, he’s just a good guy.
“I still keep in touch with coach Williams. I keep in better touch with C.B. (McGrath, North Carolina assistant) because he’s one of my peers. I still talk to Jeff Carey all the time, Ryan (Robertson), Nick Bradford. I saw (Jeff) Boschee at the Final Four. I saw Kenny (Gregory) last year at a game. I see Nick (Collison) anytime he plays in L.A. against the Lakers or Clippers. I talk to Drew (Gooden) from time to time. We went to a wedding together last summer. I talk to a majority of the guys who were there when I was there.”
An outgoing personality, Chenowith uses all his connections in his line of work. For the past three years, the former second-round draft pick of the New York Knicks has sold high-end life and disability insurance to college and pro athletes, entertainers and other individuals for Parq Advisors.
“Most all elite athletes do need disability insurance,” Chenowith said. “The main advantage is to protect future earnings. With student-athletes projected to be professionals, there are certain earnings there they should protect where if they have something catastrophic happen to them and they can’t play their sport anymore, they can make an insurance claim and recover what they’ve lost. That’s the main advantage of it.”
He said college athletes projected to be draft picks generally pay for the insurance through their school’s student assistant fund, or via a loan or have parents pay for the policy.
“There’s permanent disability if they can’t play their sport anymore and there’s loss of value where if they get hurt and sign for less money than they were expected to, they can recover what they lost due to the injury,” Chenowith said.
“I don’t think I can like my job any more to be honest with you,” added Chenowith, who will marry fiancee Bethany in September. “I have a great team of professionals I work with. I learn something new every day from the people I work with.
“Another great thing is I can see coach Self at the Final Four and have a conversation with him, at the same time get a call from an adviser from a player in the NBA for a policy and at the same time work with a hip hop artist on his insurance. That has happened in one day. That for me is the coolest thing, working with people behind the scenes who make everything click.”
Chenowith, who says he does miss playing basketball — “I really miss the games and preparation for the games” — has decided to not pursue a path as a coach. The former assistant coach at his alma mater, Villa Park High, decided a few years ago to enter the business world for good.
“My whole goal was to be a college assistant coach,” he said. “I started getting coaching offers and it just wasn’t going to make sense financially or logistically for me. I didn’t want to move out of Southern California again.
“It (coaching) has helped me garner a greater feeling of respect for coaches in college basketball who have grinded it out, who started as a video coordinator, to third assistant, to second assistant to first assistant finally to head coach. It’s a 10- to 15-year process. People don’t realize the time and sacrifice coaches make to go through that. I have a tremendous respect for those who do that. I basically scrapped the whole idea.
“They brought me aboard (at Parq). It’s my third year and to be honest it’s the best thing that’s happened to me. I’m very very happy and love what I do.
The 7-footer, who enjoys surfing, golfing, mountain biking and playing the drums, is optimistic this will be a special year for his Jayhawks.
“I think come January, February we’re going to take off and hopefully peak in March,” he said.
Self, meanwhile, says it’s been enjoyable getting to know Chenowith, who is fifth all-time in career rebounds and career blocks and 30th in career scoring at KU.
“Eric is working for a company that amongst the things they do they can secure athletes with disability insurance. Based on my limited talks with him he loves his job. He’s very outgoing, very aggressive and seems to be very good at what he does,” Self stated.