Friedlander: Damon Stoudamire has a chance to be a home run hire for Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech’s new basketball coach comes to Atlanta with a resume that includes stops at Arizona and Memphis.
Yep, it’s a path similar to the 1 that recently fired coach Josh Pastner took on his way to joining the Yellow Jackets.
That, however, is about the only similarity between new coach Damon Stoudamire and the man he was hired to replace on Monday.
That’s not a knock against Pastner. He’s proven he can coach, with an ACC Tournament championship to his credit and a career winning percentage of .595 despite going just 109-113 in his 7 seasons at Tech.
But there’s more to winning at a place like Tech than just Xs and Os.
It takes players.
The kind of elite players the Yellow Jackets have lacked since the glory days of Bobby Cremins, Kenny Anderson and “Lethal Weapon 3.”
It’s not as if they have to go beating the bushes to find them. Located in downtown Atlanta, Tech sits atop 1 of the richest gold mines of young basketball talent in the country.
The trick is finding a way to convince the best of those players to stay home and attend a school whose academic requirements are significantly more stringent than most of its rivals.
If anyone can do it, it’s someone with Stoudamire’s credentials.
You want to make a name for yourself in college and get to the league? Who better to help you get there than a guy who played in a Final Four, was a 1st-round draft pick, played 15 professional seasons and who comes to Tech having been the top assistant for the Boston Celtics — a team that currently has the 2nd-best record in the Eastern Conference?
And that’s not all Stoudamire has going for him.
"He's an unbelievable person. I think Georgia Tech is lucky to have him"
Joe Mazzulla on Damon Stoudamire leaving Celtics pic.twitter.com/3VCVsgNAkj
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 13, 2023
Even though he’s been coaching out West and in the NBA for the past 6 years, Stoudamire already has a working knowledge of the high school basketball scene in metro Atlanta — and presumably relationships that have already been built with area coaches — through his 2 sons.
Both played their high school careers in suburban Atlanta, Damon Jr. at Lambert and Brandon at South Forsyth.
“Coach Stoudamire’s success and credibility as a player and coach at both the collegiate and professional levels make him a great fit to lead our program,” Tech athletic director J Batt said in a statement announcing the hiring. “He will serve as an outstanding mentor on and off the court and will attract talented student-athletes to The Flats.”
Beyond the recruiting, Stoudamire has also proven his coaching chops at the college level.
Don’t let his 71-77 overall record at Pacific from 2016-21 — with a winning percentage of .480 that’s almost identical to the .491 clip that Pastner posted at Tech — fool you.
His 1st 3 seasons with the Tigers were spent building a program in the days before open transfers and NIL. He was 32-19 over his final 2 seasons and was a finalist for the job at his alma mater, Arizona, before leaving after the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign to join his longtime friend, Ime Udoka, with the Celtics.
Udoka is no longer with the Celtics, having been relieved of his duties for an off-the-court issue prior to this season.
That’s likely the main reason for his decision to leave the team and return to the college ranks. Another is the opportunity the Georgia Tech job presents.
With Hall of Famers Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim all having retired and at least 2 of their blue blood programs struggling, the competition in the ACC isn’t as intimidating as it once was.
The door is ajar for someone to step in and fill the void.
And it no longer has to take a 3- or 5-year plan to bring a program to prominence. Just look at what this season’s ACC Coach of the Year, Jeff Capel, did at Pittsburgh and what Kevin Keatts did at NC State through their effective use of the NCAA transfer portal.
Stoudamire reportedly interviewed for the Tech job last Saturday while the Celtics were in Atlanta to play the Hawks, and things progressed quickly from there. He was given a 5-year contract, specifics of which have yet to be announced.
His hiring is the 2nd major staff addition made by Batt in the 5 months he has been with the Yellow Jackets after serving as deputy athletic director and chief fundraiser at Alabama.
Removing the interim tag and hiring football coach Brent Key on a permanent basis barely created a ripple when he did it last December.
But this is different. It’s ACC basketball.
That makes it front-page news, even though the league’s perception and results aren’t what they used to be.
The ACC has taken its share of hits over the past few years. But nothing would restore its sagging reputation more than the return of a nationally relevant program at the school located in 1 of its most important media markets.
Damon Stoudamire’s hiring by Georgia Tech has the potential to be the 1st step in that direction.