Jason Terry is new to coaching in college — his first season as an assistant at his alma mater Arizona is coming up — but he certainly is adept to leading young people, not only with his Lady Jets AAU program the last 12 years out of Dallas.
He is also a father of five daughters along with his wife Johnyika. The oldest — Jasionna — was a newborn when Terry was still playing at Arizona (his career was from 1995-99). Jasionna is now 22 and a graduate of TCU. His second-youngest is Jalayah, who is 19 and about to be a sophomore at ASU. Yes, she’s a Sun Devil.
“You know what? It’s going to be a tough decision for her (to reconsider),” Terry said today after he was asked in jest about his daughter attending the arch-rival school. “I want her to go to the UA but she’s on her own journey and she’s had a great experience at ASU. She’ll probably continue there.”
What happens on days Arizona plays ASU?
“I don’t know. That’s up to her,” Terry said. “She’s been known to go on campus with UA paraphernalia on. She’s known to have UA gear on.”
The other intriguing element of the family are the other three daughters — Jaida (14), Jasa (12) and Jrue (5) — will have a presence in Tucson with their parents. Terry mentioned they are looking for a home in Oro Valley. A basketball family, they will likely be seen on the courts locally as they prosper in the game in the next few years.
“Hopefully, late July, get them enrolled in school in August,” Terry said. “That’s the plan.”
Terry addressed members of the local media for about half-hour in a ZOOM meeting. The topics ranged from how the process started for him becoming an assistant coach in Sean Miller’s program, his controversial tweet in February 2018 that mentioned Arizona should “clean house” in light of the ESPN report that alleged Miller negotiated $100,000 from an agent runner to land Deandre Ayton, and the dynamics of him working alongside Miller and the other assistants.
One of those aides is Jack Murphy, the former video coordinator and director of basketball operations under Lute Olson. Murphy, who returned to Arizona, also his alma mater, last season after being the head coach at NAU, provided Terry the opportunity to return to be a coach.
The relationship repair with Miller
“About a year ago, I reached out to Jack Murphy, the associate head coach, and I wanted to set up a breakfast/lunch with Coach Miller and kind of talk about the future of the program and seeing how I can actively get involved and possibly start my career in coaching,” Terry said. “At that particular time, they didn’t have a position open, but we had great dialogue. We expressed our interest in how we can help each other with the program. That conversation led us to where we are today.”
Miller did not hold a grudge concerning Terry’s tweet following the ESPN report and he was open to communicating with the 1997-98 national player of the year.
“We repaired that, talked about it and had a good conversation about it some time ago,” Miller said in a ZOOM press conference Wednesday. “I appreciated it at that moment, just the thought that he had of reaching out and getting back on the same page. He didn’t need to explain the emotion behind what he said. I think I understood it.”
Terry addressed a couple of questions today related to the tweet. Here is his response:
“I don’t really have any concerns. My whole focus was on my career and coming in and having an impact on our young student-athletes current (and future), just be an asset to the program. Coach assured me that with everything going on they were going through their process and they would let the process play out how it may. I am in full support of the University of Arizona and this program and the direction that it’s headed.
“I can’t recall exactly when it was but once I realized the impact of the statement I made, I had to call him directly and kind of tell him that I’m attached to this program as much as anybody. I care about the tradition, the history and all that. It was an emotional tweet and I told him it was nothing personal towards him at all. We repaired that situation. Coach and I are definitely on the same page. I’m a huge Sean Miller supporter. What he’s done for our program has cemented his legacy in Arizona Wildcat history. He will continue to build and I’m just happy to be a part of that building process.”
The breakthrough for Terry to join Miller’s staff occurred when former assistant Justin Gainey accepted the associate head coaching job at Marquette in March. Terry said, “I was the first in line.”
“(Murphy) had invited me to a couple of games (this season),” Terry said. “I was at the Baylor game at Baylor and as crazy as it sounds, I was literally at the Pac-12 tournament and Coach Murph had invited me to speak to
the team before that second-round game. Right before that game, it was canceled (because of COVID-19) and they got everybody out of Vegas.
“So I never got to speak to the team, but I continued to call Coach (Miller). I continued to text and call Murph. And then the spot opened up. … I’ve got to thank Coach and Murph for giving me this opportunity and making my dream become a reality and getting me started on my coaching career.”
His role on the coaching staff
Miller also mentioned Wednesday that Terry’s role on his staff will include his immense profile with potential recruits with 19 years in the NBA, coaching defense to guards considering he is the only player in Arizona history to finish with at least 1,000 career points and 200 career steals, and leading physical training because of the endurance he showed in his career.
Jim Rosborough, a former assistant under Olson at Arizona for almost two decades, once told me Terry was the hardest working player he coached when it came to training.
Terry’s role will be just as impactful with the mental aspect of the game.
When Arizona won the 1996-97 NCAA title, Terry and Bennett Davison kept things loose in the locker room with their jokes and jovial personalities. That helped rub off on freshman Mike Bibby, who instead of being overwhelmed by the pressure at such a young age, became more confident and at ease running the team. Working with Terry, who accepted a sixth-man role to allow him to start, had a lot to do with Bibby’s healthy mindset.
“Well, I think that will be a huge role for me as I get started,” Terry said about having a similar role of being a confidant and mentor for the Wildcats. “I mean, obviously being a mentor for these guys is very key not only on the court, but in life, the life skills, giving them life’s lessons, kinda giving them examples of what I’ve been through in my college experience as I prepared to become a professional.
“That knowledge should be given to these guys every single day. From a mental developed aspect, I think the one thing about these guys is that they’re all talented, and they all have the ability to play at that next level. What separates good from great is the mental mindset that you carry every single day. I will really, really tap into their mental approach to that side of their game.”
Hello again Pacific Northwest
Arizona’s lack of recruiting in the Pacific Northwest, where Terry is from with his Seattle background, has been so non-existent since the Olson years that Terry was able to rattle off some of the names of players from there. He did not mention Salim Stoudamire, who like cousin Damon, is from Portland. The list is that short.
“The last guy we had come out of the northwest was Marcus Williams (in 2005 from Seattle),” Terry said. “Before that, it was Michael Dickerson (Seattle) and myself, Damon Stoudamire, from that Northwest area.
“We know it’s a hotbed for recruiting and talent. That is definitely one of the areas that I will definitely try to tap into. Knowing my presence there, knowing that I’m a guide in that community, in that area, that a lot of kids and families look up to, I’m definitely excited about that.”
The Wildcats already have a newcomer with a Seattle background at it’s Terry’s Godson Terrell Brown, a graduate transfer from Seattle University.
Brown, a 6-foot-1 guard, was a first-team All-WAC selection with the Redhawks last season, leading the conference with 20.7 points per game with 6.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
“He’s had a phenomenal career,” said Terry, who added that he changed Brown’s diapers when he was a baby. “I didn’t know that he would have an opportunity to play for the University of Arizona. He was having a great career where he was at. He finished up at Seattle U. and graduates and gives himself an opportunity to showcase his talents at the highest level.
“I’ve always thought highly of him and his talents. He’s proven time and time again at whatever level he’s been that he’s a winner. He can lead a team and he has all the potential to take his game to the next level after this one. I’m excited and happy for the kid to get an opportunity to play somewhere I had a great experience at.”
Why coach in college when he’s earned millions?
Terry was asked why spend hours upon hours recruiting and coaching, training and going over film with college-age players when he’s already earned more than $100 million in his NBA career.
Terry’s known diligence, remarked about by Rosborough, can not be understated. Terry, who pointed out he has coached his girls team the last 12 years during the offseason, also discussed the intangible qualities he will bring to those coaching and film sessions and any personal meetings with players.
“Well, my passion from day one is for impacting lives,” Terry said. “We could say ‘coach,’ but at the end of the day, it’s about impacting these young athletes’ lives, giving them guidance, giving them somebody that’s been there before, that’s experienced what they’re going to experience and then putting them in position to be successful not only on the court but in life. That is my purpose. I’m a God-fearing man and God has given me that purpose.”
In terms of the the 2020-21 personnel he will be coaching along with Miller, Murphy and assistant Danny Peters, Terry has yet to see in person any of them working out because of COVID-19 and his recent hire. With five recruits overseas, it may be a while until he can get a true gauge in the talent he will be working with.
“I’ve been watching tons of film, not only on our returning guys but also the guys who we’re bringing in,” Terry said. “This is a very talented group. We’ll have versatility at all spots. Our guard position is heavy. Also, we have high-IQ basketball players who have played at a high level.
“You talk about the international flavor, these guys have played at a high level over in their native countries. So I’m excited, man. It was good to see the guys on a ZOOM call the last couple of days. I’ve been checking on the guys, their mental state. Obviously, there’s a lot going on in our society right now. I just want to make sure everyone is safe.”
Looking forward to hugging Coach O
Terry has not been able to communicate with Olson about becoming an assistant coach because of COVID-19 restrictions and because he is not settled in Tucson yet. Olson, 85, is homebound because of his health and did not attend a game at McKale Center this season.
“Coach O and I have a great relationship and obviously his struggles with his health right now are well-publicized,” Terry said. “I haven’t talked to him since I’ve gotten the job. But once I step foot in Tucson, he’ll definitely be the first guy (to visit). Right now, under these circumstances, I don’t really want to put anyone at risk, first and foremost. As soon as this kind of passes, I’ll be able to go meet him face to face, give him that big ‘ol JT hug and we’ll have a great conversation.”
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.