Damon Stoudamire says the reason so many wealthy ex-NBA stars don't pursue a career in college coaching is because "it's hard. … it's a grind.''
"You can't turn your phone off," he said Friday. "I really don't think guys want to work that hard."
You want something that's hard? Read the vast NCAA rule book, absorb its contents and apply it day to day. That's part of the reason there are almost no celebrity assistant coaches in college basketball.
The pay is good - Josh Pastner apparently offered Stoudamire $300,000 annually to remain at Memphis - but you work nights, weekends and holidays, and your future swings on the decisions of teenagers.
Stoudamire made an estimated $99 million in the NBA but I think one of the reasons he chose to be part of Sean Miller's staff is that he wasn't pampered the way today's incoming freshmen are pampered in the murky AAU culture.
Yes, he was the Oregon Player of the Year in 1991, but he actually had a part-time job at Portland's Wilson High School. He was a janitor. And when he arrived at Arizona in the fall of 1991, choosing the Wildcats at the last minute over Louisville and Oregon State, he mostly sat on the bench.
In his first five games at Arizona, sitting behind Khalid Reeves and Matt Othick, Stoudamire averaged 3.6 points and 12.8 minutes. He didn't start a game as a freshman.
Miller described Stoudamire as "the best person for the job,'' rather than say a word about his legacy at McKale Center.
"I'm not here as an 18, 19, 20-year-old young man playing for Coach (Lute) Olson," said Stoudamire. He described himself as "a grown man."
One of the most important variables Stoudamire brings to the job is his credibility in evaluating personnel and potential. Had Grant Jerrett, for example, asked Stoudamire if he was NBA-ready, Stoudamire would surely have spoken about Jerrett's softness, lack of strength and experience.
Stoudamire's presence, communication skills and basketball wisdom - not his UA statistics - are what make his hiring so compelling.
Ex-Cat Gardner in line for job as assistant at Oregon State
If all goes well on his interview with Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson this weekend, Jason Gardner could become the second former Arizona point guard as a Pac-12 assistant coach for 2013-14. Gardner has spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Loyola-Chicago. He is attempting to replace ex-OSU coach David Graves, who left Corvallis to become an assistant at UCLA. … When UT-San Antonio plays the UA at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 14, it'll be a return home for ex-Sabino High football standout Jeff Popovich. The former Sabercat is the new secondary coach at UTSA after spending six seasons in a similar role at Florida International. He graduated from Miami with a degree in biomedical engineering in 2000. … Jim Livengood's departure from UNLV next month will leave four Tucsonans on the UNLV payroll: former UA director of football operations Erick Harper is now a fund-raiser; ex-Flowing Wells High School state championship softball standout Brittany Meade is an administrative assistant in the athletic department; and Tucson native Julio Freire, who was a fundraiser under Livengood at Arizona, has a similar job in Vegas. Andy Grossman, who is the school's director of communications for sports, worked in the Arizona SID office in the Livengood years. … Lester Medford, a terrific point guard who led Amphi to the 2011 state basketball championship, will not play on Brian Peabody's first Pima College team in 2013-14. After becoming an all-ACCAC guard as an Arizona Western College freshman in 2012, Medford spent the year attempting to gain eligibility at Pima.
More Short Stuff
Pima would dominate at D-II softball level
Pima College finished third in the NJCAA softball championships Saturday in St. George, Utah, another bid for a national title that came up a bit short for coach Armando Quiroz. The Aztecs were fourth a year ago. But that is likely to change in 2015 when PCC is expected to move from Division I to Division II in NJCAA softball. If a team does not have dormitories - a significant recruiting advantage - it usually selects to play in D-II. Quiroz, who fields an all-Southern Arizona roster, would be a clear favorite to win the Division II national title. Almost all of the other PCC teams already play in D-II … It was quite a year for Pima College outfielder Shawna Comeaux and her brother, Sabino High senior Billy Comeaux. Shawna was a key player, hitting .376 in the regular season for the Aztecs' region champion softball team. Billy won the state golf championship for the Sabercats. … It hasn't taken CDO grad Chris Crevelone long to get his feet wet as a full-time assistant coach under Dan Majerle at Grand Canyon University. Crevelone played host to Ironwood Ridge High School freshman Mitch Lightfoot in an unofficial recruiting visit last week. Lightfoot projects as one of the leading Division I prospects in Arizona's class of 2016. … If the UA chose an assistant coach of the year, Omar Ojeda would be close to the top of any list. The Wildcats' diving coach, in his second season, helped junior Samantha Pickens win the NCAA title in 1-meter diving. Last week, Pickens won the USA championship at the World Championship qualifying tournament. She will join UA freshman Rafael Quintero at the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain this summer. Quintero, who was sixth in the NCAA under Ojeda, will represent Puerto Rico.
Curley, a top distance runner, has 2-day run to remember
Tucsonan Craig Curley, who has emerged as one of America's top distance runners, finished fifth last Saturday in the USA 25K Championships in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Pima College product then flew to Tucson that afternoon and won the next day's Tucson 5000 by 24 seconds. Curley was seventh at the USA 15K in Jacksonville, Fla., in March. … Zach Malis hit .515 with 62 RBIs for Division IV state baseball champ Desert Christian High School. He also saved the state title game in relief and was 8-2 with a 2.01 ERA this season. Talk about good genes. He is the son of former UA and Sahuaro volleyball standout Michelle Bartsch, an All-Pac-10 player. His father is A. J. Malis, who helped Sahuaro win the 1988 state soccer championship and later became an assistant UA volleyball coach. … Desert Christian has seven starters returning from its 26-4 championship team, although it is sure to miss senior Trevor Jorg, who hit .447. … Mountain View High School grad Steve Naemark pitched the game of his life in the Region 1 ACCAC baseball finals last week. Naemark, a freshman at Cochise College, pitched a complete-game eight-hitter over South Mountain. He took a 9-3 record into the NJCAA playoffs this weekend. Desert View grad Jake Luna started 44 games and hit .269 as an outfielder for Cochise, and Flowing Wells grad Stephan Desgagne hit .253 for the Apaches, who went 48-16 to win the ACCAC.
Bonstrom 7th All-Pac-12 local in softball
Stanford first baseman Kayla Bonstrom, the CDO grad who was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, became the seventh ex-Tucson prep player to become an All-Pac-12 first-team selection. Catalina's Stacy Iveson was the first, at Arizona, in 1987. Then came Desert View's Lety Pineda, at Arizona, in 1996, 1997 and 1998, followed by CDO's Sarah Beeson at Stanford in 2001 and 2002, and Salpointe's Tairia Mims, at UCLA, in 2001. Catalina Foothills' Jackie Vasquez, at ASU, did so in 2008, and CDO's Kenzie Fowler did so as an Arizona freshman in 2010. … Remember how dominant CDO's Jaide Stepter was last spring, the state's Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year, winning three state titles? As a freshman at USC, Stepter finished 20th in the Pac-12 meet in the 100 hurdles. She was 13th in the 400 hurdles, almost six full seconds behind the qualifying time of Arizona's Georganne Moline. It's not easy. … Tucson High School celebrated its sports history Saturday in the second annual Badger Athletics Football Reunion. In the crowd was 92-year-old Dick Aros, a World War II aviator who, as far as can be determined, continues to own the highest career batting average by a prep baseball player in Tucson history. Aros hit a combined .533 for the Badgers in 1938 and 1939. Aros' senior season at THS triggered a run of eight consecutive state baseball championships. Good to have Mr. Aros around. … The Indoor Football League has become something of a refuge to former Arizona football players. Ex-UA linebacker Paul Vassallo is eighth in the league in tackles, playing for the Wyoming Cavalry. Also in the nine-team league this year are linebacker Derek Earls and defensive back Michael Turner of the Green Bay Blizzard and tailback Keola Antolin of the Tri-Cities Fever, among others. Not that anyone's getting rich; in a recent game matching Vassallo and Antolin in Kennewick, Wash., the announced attendance was 3,100.
My Two Cents
Hoops here, like in Memphis, is always important news
On the day Arizona introduced Damon Stoudamire as its assistant basketball coach, Damon's former boss, Josh Pastner, told ESPN:
"We're on Page 1C 365 days a year. Even in May and June, it's never 9C. We're always on 1C, always on that front page. The intensity and passion people have about basketball here … there's no place like it."
Almost before the ink was dry on the Memphis newspaper, Sean Miller concluded a May press briefing attended by 34 media people and Lute Olson at McKale Center, with a live video feed available globally.
And that was at 1:30 p.m., on a Friday, when the news cycle is at its slowest.
Stoudamire simply left one fishbowl for another.