Multiple media outlets and social media posts are indicating that former Arizona All-American guard Jason Terry will officially be announced as an assistant coach at his alma mater on Thursday.
Even Wikipedia has already listed him as an Arizona assistant coach:
Terry’s hire by Sean Miller to replace Justin Gainey, who departed to Marquette to be the associate head coach, has been rumored and verified as much as it could be without it being official for a couple of weeks now.
The effervescent personality of Terry, a consensus national player of the year as a senior in 1998-99, will be a welcome addition to Miller’s staff. Miller already has an Arizona tie from the past with Jack Murphy — a video coordinator and director of basketball operations under Lute Olson — as one of his coaches.
Miller has welcomed former Arizona players as assistant coaches before — Damon Stoudamire and Joseph Blair. With Miller now 12 years into his tenure in 2020-21 and six seasons removed from the last Elite Eight appearance, it appears the 51-year-old coach is open for change. For instance, his Class of 2020 newcomers do not include a 5-star recruit but have six international prospects instead, a unique situation in the program’s recruiting history.
At the end of a recent roundtable discussion between Miller, Steve Kerr and Matt Muehlebach, a pensive Miller commented about how he wanted to bring pride back to Arizona. The program has experienced the recent turmoil involving the FBI probe and NCAA investigation.
“We’ve been through a lot the last couple of years (and) I’m very optimistic that we’re coming out on the other side,” Miller told them. “Before these last several years, we have knocked really hard on the door of the Final Four. I mean, three Elite Eights, two of them came down to a single possession.
“That Elite Eight game stays with you if you don’t take the next step and get to a Final Four, but I think when you go through some adversity and obstacles and you’re coming out on the other side, you have the opportunity to be better. And in some ways, do some things you wouldn’t have done if you didn’t go through some hardships or tough times. I look forward to getting us back on top, and man, I couldn’t have done it without the support of guys like both of you. The thing that I cringe about more than anything is if ever we may make you look bad — making you look bad could be a tough loss to UCLA or it could be some other things. When I say a Player’s Program, I really mean it. I want you to feel that the program is in great hands but also it has a culture and a way of doing things right and it’s built to last.”
Hiring Terry as an assistant is a great way of bringing back that culture Olson developed with the program. Terry epitomized the heart of the Wildcats breaking through to the 1996-97 national title after he accepted a sixth-man role, paving the way for true freshman Mike Bibby to start and be an integral leader for the Wildcats.
Terry owns the distinction of being the longest tenured NBA player in Arizona history with 19 years.
Here are some reflections of Terry’s past with the Wildcats with previous interviews with those close to him:
Judging from A.J. Bramlett’s hearty laugh, Terry’s superstitious antics are of historic hilarious proportions. When I brought up Terry sleeping in his uniform the night before a game, Bramlett had a good laugh that lasted a few seconds. I expected Bramlett to say something like, “Oh, that story again.”
Bramlett laughed as if he just heard about it and he struggled to say words through the laughter. “He did that … yes, he did that,” said Bramlett, a roommate and close friend of Terry’s in their four years together at Arizona from 1995 to 1999. “I don’t know how that started. I think it happened after the first-round game of the (1997) NCAA tournament. He thought it kept him ready for the games. That dude is so superstitious.”
That uniform-as-pajamas ritual is not Terry’s most amusing superstition, according to Bramlett.
“I remember he bought chicken fingers and fries before a game one time and didn’t have a chance to eat them,” Bramlett said with a laugh. “He ended up having a great game, so on the day of the game, he continued to buy chicken fingers and fries and didn’t eat them. He still does that.”
Steve Rivera, the longtime Tucson Citizen beat reporter of the program and now a writer for AllSportsTucson.com and co-host of the Eye on the Ball radio show on KVOI 1030-AM, calls Terry “easily one of the best guys I’ve covered and I’m not talking about ability, but personality.“
“He’s got it and he gets it. Whenever I needed a quote or something funny J.T. was the go-to guy. Obviously, his senior year was one of the best all-time here at Arizona,” Rivera said. “J.T. had so many good stories as many have reflected on. I enjoyed him because he was such a good personality.”
In the book authored by Rivera and Anthony Gimino titled, “100 Things Arizona Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die,” Terry’s meeting with Olson discussing his sixth man role in 1996-97 was described. Miles Simon returned from his academic suspension and was coming off the bench before Terry met with Olson about being a reserve instead of Simon.
“He said, ‘We’ve got to get Miles back in the starting lineup, Coach,” Olson is quoted in the book. “I said, ‘Yeah, but are you going to sit (Mike) Bibby down? He’s a freshman and his confidence will be totally destroyed.’
“Michael Dickerson? You couldn’t do that. So, I said, ‘Yeah, I agree with you, but who are we going to sit down?’ And J.T. said, ‘Me. I love coming off the bench and I think I can give a team a lift off the bench.’”
Jim Rosborough noticed something peculiar about Terry’s choice for carry-on luggage when the players showed up to McKale Center to catch the bus to the airport in 1995 when Terry was an unworldly freshman.
Terry, from a modest upbringing in Seattle, wanted to get the most out of his first trip to New York City. The Wildcats were headed there to play in the Preseason NIT. Most of the players had the customary athletic bag or backpack to carry on the plane.
“Lo and behold, Jason shows up with something odd in a pillow case,” Rosborough, a longtime assistant under Olson, told me. “He had two speakers, about 16 (inches) by 16 (inches), that were part of a boom box, I believe, in that pillow case.
“It was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen. Here’s this crazy little guy from Seattle with speakers in a pillow case. He really wanted to hear music in his hotel room in New York City. Restrictions on airplanes were not what they are today. We only asked him not to play the music too loud.”
Arizona’s media relations specialist for the basketball program when the Wildcats won it all in 1997 was Brett Hansen, who was with the team nearly every step of the way in every season he filled that role.
“After the loss to Utah in the West Regional Final in 1998, I was walking out of the locker room at The Pond with J.T. & A.J. Bramlett. J.T. walked past a ballboy who was probably 8-10 years old and gave him his bright blue Nikes Foamposites – remember those?” Hansen said. “He said he never wanted to play in those again after what happened (Arizona was eliminated 76-51 by Rick Majerus’ team). Then the two of them talked about the fact that ‘it’s our team now’ as returning seniors the following season with Miles Simon, Michael Dickerson and Bennett Davison exhausting their eligibility.”
It was the night before the 1997 national title game, Arizona’s first venture that far, no less. What were the Wildcats up to? Keeping to themselves? Strictly business? Counting the hours to playing Kentucky? Chewing off the fingernails?
“We had a food fight and it was Jason Terry who started it,” Davison recalled in an interview with me in 2015, before Terry’s No. 31 jersey celebration ceremony at McKale Center. “I remember Ros (assistant coach Rosborough) was with Coach Olson at the coach’s table and he asked Coach Olson if he should break it up.
“Coach Olson told him, ‘Let them just be kids. We’ll deal with the pressure and all of the exterior forces. Let them have their fun.’”
Davison, a free spirit himself, added that “J.T. was the jokester who always reminded us we were out there to have fun.”
“Don’t get me wrong, we took things seriously and we had a business approach to how we did things under Coach Olson,” Davison said. “But that (1996-97) team was all about not letting the stress get to us. It started with J.T.
“When things got serious, he became relaxed. He is pretty street-wise. He grew up in not one of the best areas of Seattle. He got a lot of his confidence from his mom (Andrea Cheatham), who had a very endearing spirit with a lot of high hopes and positive energy.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.