John Amaechi isn't afraid to make people squirm.
He unsettles them because he's so willing to speak his mind, consequences be damned.
The former Penn State basketball player and one-time Jazzman did exactly that back in February of 2007 when, in his autobiography, "Man in the Middle," he became the first NBA player to identify himself as gay.
I remember how Amaechi's declaration rippled through the sports world for several days afterward. Specifically, I remember how it effected the highly-conservative Utah Jazz organization.
In his book, Amaechi was highly critical of coach Jerry Sloan, castigating him for his old-school and often profane motivational techniques.
"Jerry raged against players whom he thought didn't play hard enough, claiming they were undermining coaches across the league," Amaechi wrote. "If we lost two or three in a row, he would stride into practice yelling, 'You (expletives) are trying to get me fired. I'm not losing my job because you guys aren't hustling.'
"During one of these job-insecurity diatribes, Karl (Malone) looked at me and smirked, 'If only we were so lucky.' Then he went back to the posture he'd long ago adopted: working diligently on his game while pretending Jerry didn't exist."
Over the years I've made no secret of my appreciation for Sloan, both as a coach and an honest, forthright man. And I'll admit, Amaechi's comments ruffled my feathers a little.
However, as I attempted to look at the situation in an objective way, I didn't doubt Amaechi's credibility. I don't believe either man liked the other. Actually, I'm not convinced they could. After all, Sloan was an older, throwback coach, born and bred in Midwestern farm country. Amaechi was a free-thinking young man raised in England, believing basketball was a fun game, but it certainly wasn't the most important thing in the world.
"We didn't see eye to eye," Sloan once said.
Bottom line: Like it or not, Amaechi was fearlessly speaking his mind. He was offering his take on the situation and he didn't seem to care who might disagree.
In the wake of the current scandal rocking Penn State, Amaechi has once again spoken out, offering an honest and unblinking opinion of the child molestation allegations leveled at former Nittany Lions assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
"I'm ashamed. My heart hurts a little bit every time I hear the name Penn State," Amaechi said Friday on the Jim Rome radio program.
Amaechi, now an organizational psychologist and motivational speaker, was quick to point out none of this is about him or any other Penn State athlete or coach. Rather, it's about young victims of sexual assault.
While many others -- former Nittany Lion and NFL player Franco Harris, for example -- have offered blind support to coach Joe Paterno's program, Amaechi has instead offered genuine concern for Sandusky's alleged victims.
While at Penn State, Amaechi and other athletes helped recruit kids for Sandusky's "Extra Mile" foundation, a program designed to help at-risk youth.
A Pennsylvania grand jury recently determined Sandusky found his alleged victims through the foundation.
"It's part of what makes this painful," Amaechi told Sports Illustrated. "I had no personal relationship (with Sandusky) but it almost feels like the athletes involved were what made Second Mile so alluring to the kids."
Amaechi also took aim at athletic mega-programs at schools like Penn State. It's an opinion that won't sit well with some fans and administrators, but he's right. Regardless of the money and support it may bring in, it's incredibly unhealthy for an athletic program to become bigger than the school itself.
Not only does it create a power vacuum for coaches and players, it tends to distort reality, which is exactly what happened at Penn State.
Universities, including the ones here in Utah, are educational institutions, not sports factories. I know that's not always a popular opinion, but the truth of it is, when we lose sight of that fact, bad things happen, whether it's a violation of NCAA rules or something much, much worse.
In that regard, John Amaechi and I certainly see eye to eye.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247