Experienced Stoudamire coaches Arizona Wildcats basketball
Keenan Turner/ The Daily Wildcat
Sure, the sport here is basketball, but assistant coach Damon Stoudamire’s newest students of the game knew right away the UA had hit a home run hiring him as an assistant.
Having played four years at Arizona and 13 in the NBA with four different teams, Stoudamire brings an uncontested amount of experience to the Wildcats’ coaching staff since being hired in May.
“I was extremely excited to have such a high NBA player on the coaching staff because he knows things that a lot of other coaches don’t know,” freshman forward Aaron Gordon said. “Just about the flow of the game away from the X’s and O’s — he knows the little details to go from being good to being great.”
Stoudamire, 40, is sixth on the Arizona all-time scoring list with 1,849 points. He was arguably the most important piece to the 1993-94 Final Four squad, leading the team in minutes and assists while averaging its second-most points per game that season.
The following year, Stoudamire ended his tenure in a Wildcats uniform a consensus All-American, co-Pac-10 Player of the Year as well as a John R. Wooden player of the year finalist.
“He’s going to show me stuff that I need to work on and show me stuff that he used while he played here, and that’ll only help me,” senior point guard T.J. McConnell said.
Drafted by Toronto with the seventh overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, Stoudamire was named Rookie of the Year after averaging 19 points per game and 9.3 assists per game. His 653 assists that season ranked fourth in the league.
Stoudamire was traded to his hometown Portland Trailblazers 49 games into the 1997-98 campaign, and he remained with the Trail Blazers for the next seven seasons. After a little over two seasons with Memphis, he finished his playing career under four-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich for San Antonio in 2008.
“He’s at the point where I want to be at, so he’s definitely taught me a lot already,” sophomore guard Gabe York said. “The NBA is hopefully right around the corner for me in the next three years, so he’s taught me a lot already about going to the NBA and not going overseas and becoming a college assistant coach.”
With a desire to still be involved in the game, Stoudamire returned to the Grizzlies in 2009 — this time with a clipboard. Memphis had its most successful season in its history in 2010-11, going 46-36 when he was coach there.
Stoudamire was most recently an assistant coach at the University of Memphis for two years under former Wildcat and Tigers head coach Josh Pastner. The Tigers won the Conference USA regular and postseason titles, with an overall record of 31-5 last season.
Frequently referred to since his playing days as “Mighty Mouse,” Stoudamire is expected to inject a higher level of mental toughness to the program.
“He has that grit,” junior guard Nick Johnson said. “He was always that guy as a player; he had a big heart and never backed down. So, he has a little bit of a grit that we lost with some of our players leaving last year. Definitely that and his experience at an NBA level.”
Stoudamire has earned nearly $100 million alone in NBA player salary and cherishes the atmosphere of a sold-out crowd at McKale Center.
“I played on a lot of teams. I’ve played for a lot of coaches. I’ve played with a lot of great players; I’ve played with Hall-of-Fame players,” Stoudamire said in a soft, nostalgic tone to his audience of more than 14,000 last Saturday at halftime of the Red-Blue Game. “But the memories — and I hope this current team is listening. The memories that you have of college — [they] will never go away. Because if you go to the NBA, you will never get this right here. You’ll never get it.”
— Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo