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How Arizona legend Jason Terry became the Wildcats’ next assistant coach

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Gordon Bates and Gordon Bates | The Daily Wildcat

Jason Terry was the Pac-10 Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American in 1999, and a member of the 1997 Arizona national championship team.

Former Arizona basketball legend Jason Terry said he was “first in line” when he heard the news of a coaching position opening up on the men’s basketball team back in March. Terry had been in contact with head coach Sean Miller and associate head coach Jack Murphy since September 2019 when Terry first described his interest in joining the staff.

“I reached out to [Murphy], associate head coach, and wanted to set up a breakfast/lunch with coach Miller and kind of talk about the future of the program and see how I could actively get involved and possibly start my career in coaching,” Terry said in a virtual press conference.

Miller did not have an open position at the time but told Terry to stay in contact with him if an opportunity ever arose later. Coach Murphy later invited Terry to speak with the team in Las Vegas before its second round game against USC in the Pac-12 tournament. Terry would never get the chance to give his motivational speech as the tournament was canceled just before the game due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Wildcats would then announce assistant coach Justin Gainey would be departing from the team and joining Marquette’s coaching staff in March. That would be the start of Jason Terry’s professional coaching career.  

“The spot opened up and I was the first one in line, I tell you that,” Terry said. “I thank coach [Miller] and [Murphy] for giving me this opportunity and making my dream become a reality and getting me started on my coaching career.” 

Terry had his doubts about the program following the FBI investigation involving coach Miller in February 2018, tweeting out that the athletic department should “clean house.” Terry confirmed that their relationship has since been repaired, describing the tweet as an “emotional tweet” and that it was nothing personal towards Miller. 

“Once I realized the impact my statement had made, I had to call him directly,” Terry said. “I told him ‘look I'm attached to this program as much as anybody. You know, I care about the tradition and history and all that.’ Coach and I are definitely on the same page. I'm a huge [Miller] supporter and what he's done for our program. He’s cemented his legacy in Arizona Wildcat history and I'm just happy to be a part of that building process.”

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Terry was seen fit for the job due to his strong recruiting ties in his hometown of Seattle and the northwest area, a region that Terry said he is most excited to jump into. 

“We know it’s a hotbed for recruiting and talent so that is definitely one of the areas that I would try to tap into,” he said. “Knowing my presence there, knowing that I’m a guy in that community, in that area, that a lot of kids and families look up to so I’m definitely excited about that.” 

Terry also has ties to grad transfer Terrell Brown, his godson who will play for Arizona next season after transferring from Seattle University. 

“I literally changed his diapers back in Seattle growing up,” Terry said. “I've always thought highly of him and his talents and he's proven time and time again, at whatever level, that he's a winner. He can lead a team and he has all the potential to take his game to the next level after this. So I'm excited and happy for the kid to get an opportunity to play somewhere where I had a great experience at.” 

But despite all of his connections, some have questioned the hire as Terry has had no prior coaching experience. Terry said his goal in life is to ignore the noise and no longer worry about himself after playing 19 seasons in the NBA and to help others achieve their dream of playing professional basketball. 

“My passion from day one is for impacting lives,” Terry said. “At the end of the day, it's about impacting these student athletes’ lives, giving them guidance, giving them somebody that has been there before that's done that, who's experiencing the things that they're going to experience, and then putting them in position to be successful, not only on the court but in life.”


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