Mighty Mouse appears to be flying full circle.
Two decades after Damon Stoudamire morphed into a 5-foot-10 star guard at Arizona, the former player with the catchy nickname may be helping the Wildcats build a bridge to the past by joining Sean Miller's coaching staff.
According to Memphis coach Josh Pastner, Stoudamire will leave his assistant coach job with the Tigers to take a similar role at UA. Stoudamire, 39, would effectively replace James Whitford, who left to become head coach at Ball State last month.
Arizona, however, did not announce the hiring as of Sunday.
After playing 13 years in the NBA, having left UA as the No. 7 draft pick in 1995, Stoudamire spent the past four seasons in coaching. He spent two with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies and two with Pastner's Memphis Tigers.
"Damon did great things for me," Pastner told the Star. "Arizona's getting a great coach and a great guy. I understood that it's his alma mater and he had a tremendous career there."
Stoudamire was also a candidate to join the UA staff in 2011, when Miller eventually hired Joe Pasternack to replace Archie Miller, but has gained two years of college coaching since then.
"I think for Sean, it's the right hire at the right time," former UA coach Lute Olson said Sunday. "I'm just thrilled he's coming back because this sort of connects the current guys with the guys that were here during the time that I coached. I think that's an important thing. And there's the fact that Josh said he did a great job on the court and also in recruiting."
Pastner said Stoudamire mostly handled the guards at Memphis and also was a valuable recruiter, logging countless hours in a job that paid a small fraction of the millions he made in the NBA.
Olson said Pastner did everything he could to keep Stoudamire in Memphis but believed that Stoudamire was close to taking the job on Friday, when he had a 45-minute phone conversation with his former player.
"I think it was a difficult decision for him," Olson said. "He really liked working with Josh and he didn't want Josh to think he was letting him down. But he'd been at Memphis long enough, and Josh recognized that Damon really loves Tucson. I thought (Friday) that he was learning toward coming back, but he was going to talk to Sean a little more to find out exactly what Sean expected of him. That's the kind of young man he is."
Approached by Miller earlier this spring for permission to talk with Stoudamire, Pastner said he knew an offer from UA would be hard to resist.
"When the opening came, I knew Damon would be interested," Pastner said. "Sean is getting a really good one on the floor and in recruiting. He works hard and really gets after it."
Pastner said Stoudamire mostly worked with the Memphis guards and recruited heavily for the Tigers, though it isn't clear what role he would have at UA.
It is also not clear if Miller might name Stoudamire or one of his two current assistants, Pasternack or Book Richardson, as an associate head coach.
Whatever role Stoudamire plays on the floor, though, Olson said his recruiting connections will be ideal. Stoudamire is from Oregon, played for the Trail Blazers and has connections up and down the West Coast.
Pasternack and Miller have connections in California and all over the country, while Richardson is tied into the Northeast.
"Damon has really strong connections (in the West) so I think his hiring will give them connections nationwide, which is key when you have a program like Arizona," Olson said. "You never know which guys are going to be one-and-done so you really almost have to have great recruiting classes year after year, and then you end up having some guys transferring."
Of course, Stoudamire's résumé and salary history suggest he hardly needed to become a dogged recruiter. Stoudamire played 13 years in the NBA, becoming the Rookie of the Year in 1995-96 with Toronto, while also playing for Portland, Memphis and San Antonio. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists in the NBA.
Stoudamire's career was also noted for multiple marijuana-related incidents. He was arrested at the Tucson airport in July 2003 and charged with possession of marijuana and drug-related paraphanalia. The charges were later dismissed after he submitted two negative drug tests, completed a substance-abuse treatment program and gave the UA athletic department $45,000 in scholarship funds.
Stoudamire earned nearly $100 million over his playing career, according to Basketball-Reference.com. While he was unavailable for comment Sunday, Stoudamire told the Star after joining the Tigers' staff in 2011 that he still had a desire to work with young players.
"I've never been one to sit around and do nothing," Stoudamire said. "This is what intrigues me. If that means going to a sweaty gym in Las Vegas in July at 8 in the morning (to recruit) and staying until midnight, I don't have a problem with that.
"That's just where I'm at mentally, and the biggest thing is now I'll have a chance to elevate my stature in terms of X's and O's. That's something I've learned as a point guard. I've been coaching my whole life (on the floor) while playing that position."
Stoudamire was an All-American and co-Pac-10 Player of the Year as a senior in 1994-95. He still ranks as UA's No. 3 assist leader of all time, with 663 over a four-year career.
• Age: 39
• Hometown: Portland
• College: Arizona
• Graduated: 2008
• At UA: Played from 1991-92 to 1994-95
• Toronto (1995-96 to 1997-98)
• Portland (1997-98 to 2004-05)
• Memphis (2005-06 to 2007-08)
• San Antonio (2007-08)
• 2008-09 Rice, director of player development
• 2009-10 to 2010-11 Memphis (NBA), assistant coach
• 2011-12 to 2012-13 Memphis (NCAA), assistant coach