Stoudamire ready to give back

Arizona announced the hiring of Damon Stoudamire on Friday. Read on for details about why he became a coach, how it feels to be back at Arizona, and more.

Sean Miller has seen two of his closest assistants leave his side since he became the Head Coach of the University of Arizona Men's Basketball team. He has had to announce that his brother, Archie Miller, was going to be the new Head Coach at Dayton and that his long-time assistant James Whitford was also taking a head coaching job at Ball State.

In place of his brother, Miller hired Joe Pasternack, who has already proved to be a vital asset to the team. The departure of Whitford was announced two months ago, but his replacement was finally announced on Friday afternoon.

Former Arizona point guard Damon Stoudamire entered the press conference in a full suit, as Miller introduced him as the new assistant for the Wildcats. While he is no stranger to the program, Stoudamire admitted that things are different now that he is back as a coach.

"It feels good (to be back)," Stoudamire said. "It's different, though. Walking these halls, as I came down from the basketball office, it's different for me. I'm here as a basketball coach right now. I'm not here as an 18, 19, 20-year old kid playing basketball for Coach (Lute Olson) anymore.

"Things have changed and I'm here trying to help this program compete at the level that it has been and make it even better. I look forward to the opportunity to be here and learn under Coach Miller at my alma mater. It's going to be a great experience for me."

Stoudamire played collegiately for Arizona and then spent thirteen years in the NBA. He played for four different teams in that span. When his career was coming to a close, the point guard knew that he wanted to help the younger generation achieve the same success that he had reached. That was what fueled his desire to join the coaching ranks.

"The thing about it is that I just wanted to give back," Stoudamire said. "I wanted to give back to the kids. This game has been good to me and I figured that since it has been so good, I can give back some of the knowledge that I got from some of the great coaches and mentors that I've had.

"What I see the most with these college kids and high school kids is that they're yearning for love. They want to be patted on the back. They want to be successful, but half of them just don't know how to be successful, so I figured that I can help these kids ultimately reach their goals, using my experience and stories to help them along the way."

The new assistant has made his way around a few different stops in his short time as a coach. He was a staff member at Rice, an assistant in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, and an assistant under former Arizona walk-on Josh Pastner wth the Memphis Tigers. In his short two years with the Tigers, Stoudamire began growing a reputation as a strong recruiter and he believes that it is one thing that comes easy to him.

"When I first came into this, I thought that recruiting was easy," Stoudamire said. "It's all about building relationships and from there it's just a matter of trust. Going and talking to kids has just been a natural thing. Being able to connect with them is easy.

"A lot of kids are ultimately trying to get to the NBA. When they look at me, they can see a blueprint and I think that helps, too. That's why I think that it's easy. Another thing that helps me is that half of the kids' parents grew up watching me play."

Stoudamire is leaving friends and a home in Memphis to return to his alma mater. It wasn't an easy choice for him to return to Tucson, but he weighed his options and respected the process before making his final decision.

"I had heard from everyone else before I had even talked to Sean about the job, Stoudamire said. "He called Josh, so Josh called and told me. As I have gotten older, when you see things that could possibly happen, you keep it in perspective. I didn't really rush it. I was just waiting to hear from Sean and when we had the conversation, I felt like this could be the place for me."

The Arizona alumnus wanted to reach out to a few people before making his decision and one of those people was his former coach and mentor, Lute Olson. Stoudamire played under Olson at Arizona was welcomed back by the retired coach.

"Coach O would've signed me up immediately if it was his choice," Stoudamire said about his former coach. "He just said it would be good to have me back and with me being a former player and having the connection with the rest of the guys out there. It was a natural progression for me."

Olson wasn't the only person excited about the hiring of Stoudamire. The man who hired him, Miller, praised what the assistant was able to do in his time at Memphis and the desire that has thrust him through the coaching ranks.

"I'm hiring Damon, not because he is one of the all-time great players here, but I'm hiring him because he is the answer as a coach," Miller said about Stoudamire. "His relationship with players, his ability to teach, his ability to connect with today's student athletes; he's been there and done it at the highest level. The credibility that he has, the passion that he has, and who he is as a coach speaks way louder than what he did many years ago here at the University of Arizona."

The Arizona Head Coach wanted his new assistant to do a little bit of everything. He wanted a coach who would be able to help in all areas of the program, which is exactly what he got when he hired Stoudamire.

"We weren't trying to hire the best recruiter or best coach," Miller said. "I was looking for the most comprehensive guy we can hire. Damon's responsibilities and impact are going to be comprehensive in all aspects of the program."

The former Wildcat was the right guy for the job because he was looking for a situation that he would be able to show off and improve on his coaching skills in every aspect. At Arizona, Stoudamire will be able to work with the team in different areas that he excels at, as well as get better in those that he doesn't.

"From one perspective, I can help with the recruiting," he said. "I can help with the on-floor individual work. I can help with whatever he really needs. I've prepared for this moment. I've put together game plans. I've put together scouting reports. I've pretty much jumped into this coaching thing ever since I stopped playing.

"I don't want to be pigeonholed. I know everyone talks about the recruiting piece, but that's just natural. I want people to see the skills that I really have and I feel that I am going to be a very good coach here at the U of A and I'm only going to get better being here with Sean."


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