ATLANTA (AP) — Damon Stoudamire managed to get one word across — “Wow!” – before being overwhelmed with emotion.
The longtime NBA guard is thrilled to be back in college play, spearheading a men’s basketball program he believes can once again be a national powerhouse.
Then again, Stoudamire isn’t the first Georgia Tech coach to express such optimism.
Stoudamire was officially introduced as coach of the Yellow Jackets Tuesday, capping a whirlwind search that took just three days after Josh Pastner was fired after another losing season.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” Stoudamire said, choking back tears. “I’m excited beyond belief to be here.”
Stoudamire’s only previous head coaching experience came at Pacific, a West Coast Conference school where he posted a 71-77 record over a five-year tenure. He never made the playoffs but was selected as the league’s 2020 Coach of the Year.
Stoudamire has been an assistant for the Boston Celtics since 2021, working with a team that reached the NBA Finals last year and is a top championship contender this season.
He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to coach at Georgia Tech, even though the Yellow Jackets haven’t played much on the national stage in nearly two decades.
Stoudamire pledged to change course.
“This is a program steeped in tradition and yearning to return to winning championships,” he said. “We will galvanize the community, the student body, and move this project forward in the right direction.”
Pastner said many of the same things when he arrived in 2016, calling Georgia Tech a sleeping giant even as it faced a massive rebuilding job.
He spoke confidently about attracting top talent to the Atlantic Coast Conference school in central Atlanta, saying the urban setting would be a huge draw – especially with many of the country’s top prospects exiting. from Georgia Tech’s own backyard.
Seven years later, Pastner was unemployedhaving managed just one NCAA Tournament appearance — a one-and-only one in 2021 after a surprising run at the ACC Championship — while garnering little interest from five-star rookies.
Pastner’s predecessor, Brian Gregory, lasted just five forgettable seasons before being dumped. Even Paul Hewitt, who guided the Yellow Jackets to the national championship game in 2004, oversaw a declining program.
Georgia Tech only managed two winning seasons and two NCAA appearances in Hewitt’s last six seasons, leading to his firing in 2011.
In total, the Yellow Jackets have managed just three NCAA appearances and one victory in the Big Dance over the past 18 seasons. Even more amazing, they only had two ACC winning records during that span, both posted by Pastner.
It’s a far cry from the flagship program built by Bobby Cremins in the 1980s and 1990s.
Stoudamire said he knew this team very well growing up. He snatched up the names of top Cremins players including Mark Price, Bruce Dalrymple, Duane Ferrell, Tom Hammond, Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson, Brian Oliver, James Forrest and Malcolm Mackey.
Along with Georgia Tech president Angel Cabrera and athletic director J Batt, Stoudamire said confidently, “With the shared vision we have, I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do. .
The new coach lacked details. It’s been vaguely talked about being a program that will rely heavily on analytics, plans to boost recruitment in Georgia and across the country, and can be a much bigger player in the NIL market with all the opportunities available in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Stoudamire stressed he was not looking to recreate the program Cremins built, but said he could take inspiration from the former coach’s playbook. These teams had long been known for having some of the best playmakers in the country, from Price to Anderson to Stephon Marbury.
“I think guards win championships,” said Stoudamire, 49, a guard who played in Arizona and went on to a 13-year NBA career. “Good guards will win you many games.”
For Georgia Tech, Stoudamire’s hiring capped a six-month period of huge change for an athletic program that has struggled in its two most important sports.
At the start of last season, football manager Geoff Collins and sporting director Todd Stansbury were both fired. Batt replaced Stansbury and ended up keeping interim football coach Brent Key as the ultimate replacement.
Then, shortly after Pastner’s team finished a 15-18 season, including a 6-12 mark in the ACC, Batt decided to make another major coaching change.
“At the end of the day, the people we surround ourselves with are the most important part of our job,” Batt said. “I have extreme confidence in these two hires we made during my short time here, and I feel really good about our future.”
Stoudamire was asked if there was any hesitation about leaving the Celtics, especially with the playoffs and another championship run just around the corner.
“When Boston wins the championship,” he said confidently, “I’ll still have my ring. We’ve talked about it before. I’m going to get my ring.
Then he plans to earn a few more at Georgia Tech.
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