When I covered the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas four years ago, Damon Stoudamire commented to me that college basketball was his coaching destination despite the fact he was a member of the Memphis Grizzlies’ coaching staff.
The NBA was not for him.
“That would be nice to some day coach at Arizona and be a part of Coach (Sean) Miller’s staff,” Stoudamire said with the same kind of determination he showed when he drove the lane as a UA point guard.
Miller was only three months into his tenure at Arizona in 2009 and had yet to coach a game for the Wildcats after arriving from Xavier.
“He has reached out to all of us former players and has shown a lot of class,” Stoudamire said. “Arizona made a great hire.”
Miller, in turn, has done the same with Stoudamire. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported tonight that Stoudamire is returning to Tucson to be part of Miller’s staff after spending the last two seasons as an assistant for former UA player and assistant coach Josh Pastner with Memphis.
“I thought Damon did a great job for us, but part of the things that I’ve done well here is I’ve hired high-level people. And when you hire high-level people, other people are going to come after them,” Pastner told the Commercial Appeal.
The UA has not officially announced the hire but Pastner has confirmed the move. Stoudamire will replace James Whitford, now the Ball State head coach, but it is uncertain what role Stoudamire will have on the staff that includes Joe Pasternack and Book Richardson.
Arizona’s former players have started to populate the coaching ranks, including Pastner and Stoudamire.
Miles Simon was a UA assistant before becoming a promising broadcaster with ESPN. Craig McMillan completed his 13th season as the head caoch at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College. Reggie Geary served as an assistant at Arizona and SMU as well as a head coach in the NBA’s Developmental League before coaching in Japan.
A.J. Bramlett operates youth skill and development camps in New Mexico. Luke Walton coached with Pastner and Stoudamire at Memphis during the NBA lockout last season. Walton will coach somewhere, perhaps Memphis with Pastner, when he retires from the NBA.
Jason Terry also told me a few years ago that he wants to coach, preferably at Arizona with Miller, but he may have to wait a while depending on when Stoudamire, Pasternack or Richardson use their experience as a stepping stone.
Some coaches shy away from hiring assistants who are from their alma mater because of the comfort level. Stoudamire, however, has a driven personality. He will not take anything for granted with the Wildcats.
Danny Manning was a team manager and assistant coach for nine years with his alma mater Kansas before landing the head coaching job at Tulsa this season.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to offer kids,” Stoudamire told the Commercial Appeal in 2011 when he was hired by Pastner. “Basketball has been such a big part of my life. It’s allowed me to do so many things on so many different levels.
“It’s almost like giving back the knowledge that I was given from playing for the different coaches I’ve played for and from playing with the different ball players I’ve played with. Working with kids, you can be a part of affecting and shaping who they are and moving forward as men.”