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.
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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.
Dime: This is a different topic … Toronto, where you spent some of your better years in the NBA, has a really passionate fan base, really knowledgeable. What was your experience with them like, as fans?
DS: Personally, I loved Toronto. For one it was a nice city. I mean, us as a team, we didn’t have a lot of team success … but it was a great city, the fans were passionate. I was there at the beginning so I saw it at birth. They really were excited and really supported the team. Some of the best years in my life were in Toronto. It was a great, great three years for me to be there, had a lot of fun. I wouldn’t change that time period for anything.
Dime: Recently they had Chris Bosh leave … (Andrea) Bargnani sort of said he wasn’t happy there. Do you think it’s hard to sell free agents to Toronto or is that just a couple guys, personal things?
DS: Definitely not the city. I don’t know what’s going on out there. I wouldn’t blame it on the city. Toronto is one of the best cities to go to. It’s a multicultural city, and they have great restaurants, great shopping. It’s a lot to do; they have great entertainment. As far as being on par with other NBA cities, I mean, Toronto has to be in Top 5. All the other dynamics I don’t know because I’m not there. But Toronto’s a great city.
Dime: Watching the Finals with little guys like J.J. Barea running around, do you think height is an overrated thing that teams look at. Like in the draft, there are guys like Isaiah Thomas, guys that aren’t 6-feet tall. You were one of them. Is that something that people look into too much?
DS: I think they always have. Once you get stereotyped it’s always going to be hard. There’s no substitute for height anyway. Kids have got to understand that this day in age, everybody is always looking for something better. Play with a chip on your shoulder, understand what’s going on, understand that they’re trying to replace you every year. Everybody’s going to go through it, I went through it. Isaiah Thomas, like you said, he’s going to go through it. It’s like you’re trying to prove everybody wrong at every stop.
Dime: Do you have any ideas on, this draft class has a lot of guards …
DS: You know what, what’s funny is that I haven’t even really been keeping up with the draft process. Before I took this job, I was at the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp though, and off the top of my head, I was happy to see a lot of small guards get the opportunity to hone their skills in front of a lot of general managers and scouts. When I look at the guard position right now, you’ve got to mention Kemba Walker, and then you got Brandon Knight. But for me, Kemba Walker, I love him because he’s a winner and he hit big shots. And I think he’s going to be a solid NBA guard. I think Brandon Knight is going to be a solid NBA guard too, but I think that he has some things that he has to learn. I think that he’ll get to that point. If I want an NBA ready guard right now, to me, it has to be Kemba Walker if you want a guy to walk in there Day 1.
Dime: If I were to make you the GM of the Cavs, who would you take with the number one pick between Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams?
DS: Uh, if you were to make me the GM of the Cavs … that’s a hard question. You know, if I look at that situation, if Baron Davis is going to be the best Baron Davis he can be, he’s a Top-10 point guard in this league – I’d probably pick Derrick Williams. If Baron Davis is going to be the best Baron Davis he can be, he can help the Cavs right now. He’s better than half the point guards in the league. He’s been an All Star. But like I said, that’s only if Baron Davis is going to lose the weight and be the best Baron Davis he can be. I’d pick Derrick Williams.
What do you think? Is Toronto a top 5 NBA city?
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