Damon Stoudamire’s return to Arizona as an assistant under Sean Miller will positively impact the Wildcats in ways that will make the coaching offices at opposing Pac-12 schools feel ill at ease.
The top three ways Stoudamire’s hire will help Miller and his operation must start with the recruiting ability of the former UA All-American point guard who has a name that is identifiable with today’s young players.
1. Stoudamire will improve Miller’s already strong recruiting presence on the West coast.
Miller has proven that he can recruit California despite not having a background in that area when he was hired from Xavier in 2009. Miller’s only assistant with West coast ties after his hire was his brother Archie Miller, who was an assistant at ASU for only one season.
Sean Miller has recruited California as well as any other coach signing Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill, Jordin Mayes, Angelo Chol, Josiah Turner, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Gabe York, Elliott Pitts, and, the prize of them all, Aaron Gordon.
Miller, however, does not have a recruit from the Pacific Northwest, where Stoudamire hails from (Portland) and was once a gold mine for Lute Olson. Olson signed Stoudamire, his cousin Salim Stoudamire and Chris Rodgers from Portland. He also signed Michael Dickerson and Jason Terry — two main cogs in UA’s national championship season of 1996-97 — from Seattle.
Marcus Williams is another Seattle product who signed with Olson, who would have inked Portland’s Mike Moser and Tacoma’s Abdul Gaddy had he not retired in 2008.
Damon Stoudamire will extend Miller’s recruiting base to the valuable areas of Oregon and Washington. Marcus Williams is the last recruit from that area and he signed in 2005.
2. Stoudamire’s presence creates a bridge for Miller between Olson’s old regime to his.
Miller has given proper respect to Olson and those who played for Arizona before his arrival in 2009. He had the opportunity to keep former UA guard Reggie Geary on his first staff but understandably opted to include Archie Miller instead. Miller wanted to operate with the familiarity with his brother, and James Whitford and Book Richardson — assistants who accompanied him from Xavier.
Some of the old guard will look at this hire of Stoudamire as Miller connecting the past with the present. They are now sold that Miller welcomes the inclusion of the Olson era with his attempt to place his own stamp on the program.
Olson kept Ricky Byrdsong on his first staff at Arizona despite the fact Byrdsong was part of Ben Lindsey’s staff that coached a 4-24 team in 1982-83. Byrdsong became Olson’s top assistant by the time the UA went to the Final Four in 1988.
“I think for Sean, it’s the right hire at the right time,” Olson told Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe. “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 (Memphis coach) Josh (Pastner) said he did a great job on the court and also in recruiting.”
3. Stoudamire will provide the motivation and encouragement Jordin Mayes sorely needs.
Mayes, the only senior on the team next season, wears No. 20 because the Stoudamires — Damon and Salim — granted him that request. They are like family. Mayes’ father, Darryel Mayes, mentored Damon Stoudamire when the guard excelled at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland. The families have remained close after the Mayes family moved to California.
The younger Mayes grew up playing with Damon and Salim in Oregon. He attended Damon’s basketball camps in Portland.
“He put a little bit into my game,” Mayes told the Arizona Daily Wildcat in 2010.
Now, Damon Stoudamire can put a lot into Mayes’ game. And Mayes will take any assistance he can get.
Mayes, who struggled with his confidence last season before coming on strong late, averaged only 11.8 minutes a game as a backup for Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson. He averaged only 2.8 points and shot 35 percent from the field.
Stoudamire should bring energy back to Mayes’ game and instill leadership qualities in the senior-to-be.
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.