After retiring as a player from the NBA, Damon Stoudamire couldn’t sit still. He took an assistant coaching job with the Memphis Grizzlies but ultimately wanted to work his way into developing up-and-coming basketball players at the college level. Recently, he got his chance.
With assistant coaches from Josh Pastner‘s Memphis Tigers staff leaving for positions elsewhere, Pastner turned to a fellow former University of Arizona player to fill one of the open spots. I caught up with Mighty Mouse on Wednesday, and we discussed his new job, his experience as a Toronto Raptor and being a little guy in the NBA, and the upcoming NBA Draft.
*** *** ***
Dime: Just wondering how happy you were to be hired at Memphis. You’re obviously familiar with the city. Can you talk about the hire?
Damon Stoudamire: It’s a good opportunity for me. I had been wanting to break into college for a couple of years now. The opportunity presented itself and for me, it was something I couldn’t pass up. Having a chance to go right down the street literally and not have to move … I didn’t have to pick up and move a lot of stuff, didn’t have to move my family.
Dime: You guys obviously have a lot of talent. Can you talk about what you hope your role will be with developing these young guys, like Joe Jackson, the Barton brothers and all that?
DS: Well, coach said he’s going to allow me (to be involved with) a whole lot of different areas. Obviously you have player development. I definitely can bring that element to this team, helping the young guys out, helping them and getting all that talent that they have, to try to get them where they ultimately want to go. As for us, that’s compete for a national championship. For them, that’s moving onto the NBA.
I think that coach has asked me to be a coach. It’s not a situation where I’m coming in here and working some guys out and things like that. I’m coming here as a coach, and I look forward to helping coach (Josh) Pastner in any area that he wants. For me it’s a step in the right direction to where I want to be, you know, just, say 10 years from now. Ultimately, I want to be a head coach.
Dime: What’s the biggest transition from being an NBA player, and then (coaching) the Grizzlies and now to a college coach? From player to coach, what’s the biggest learning curve for you?
DS: The biggest thing right now, it’s really non-stop. In the pros, you usually get the summers off. In college, the summertime is really where you start your work and your grind. Right now, I’ve been getting adjusted, I’ve been getting to know our players, I’ve been getting to know our coaching staff, trying to familiarize myself with the people that I’ve got to work with on the day-to-day. You’re learning those dynamics. But at the same time, you’re out here talking to players, you’re getting ready for July evaluation period. I had to take a little test on the recruiting rules. There’s just a whole lot of things that you have to learn. I have no problem with that, because like I said, I was really looking forward to working in college.
Dime: I read a story about coach Pastner, who started shagging balls for you in the gym after you left Arizona. What was the relationship like there?
DS: Josh came a couple years after me. What happened was I got to know Josh as I started to go back to Arizona during the lockout season in 1999. Josh might’ve been a (graduate assistant) back then. The relationship started back then. He’s a hard worker that kind of was unconventional. He did it the hard way. He had a plan very young. He stuck to that plan. That put him in position to be a head coach, one of the youngest coaches in Division I right now. And he’s really been able to go out and get players and bring players around. He’s accomplished a lot at a young age.