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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
June 7, 2023

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Former Trail Blazer Damon Stoudamire hired as Georgia Tech’s head coach

2020 West Coast Conference coach of year had been Boston Celtics assistant

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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech moved quickly to put a new leader in charge of its struggling men’s basketball program, hiring longtime NBA guard Damon Stoudamire as the new Yellow Jackets coach on Monday.

The 49-year-old Stoudamire comes to the Atlantic Coast Conference school from the Boston Celtics, where he had been an assistant coach since 2021. The Celtics were in Atlanta this past weekend to play the Hawks.

Stoudamire’s only previous head coaching experience was at Pacific, where he compiled a 71-77 record over five seasons. He was the West Coast Conference coach of the year in 2020.

Georgia Tech didn’t take long to replace Josh Pastner, who was fired on Friday after the Yellow Jackets capped a 15-18 season with a second-round loss to Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament.

Stoudamire now heads a program that has made only one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 13 years.

“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,” athletic director J Batt said in a statement. “He will serve as an outstanding mentor on and off the court and will attract talented student-athletes to the Flats.”

Stoudamire was a collegiate star at Arizona, helping lead the Wildcats to the 1994 Final Four. He was selected No. 7 overall in the 1995 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors and earned rookie of the year honors.

He went on to average 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game over a 13-year pro career that included stints with the Portland Trail Blazers (1998-05), Memphis Grizzlies (2005-08) and San Antonio Spurs (2008).

Stoudamire said he was “humbled and honored” to land a job with the Yellow Jackets, who won the ACC title two years ago but have largely been a non-factor on the national stage for more than a decade.

That’s a far cry from the powerhouse program that Bobby Cremins built in the 1980s and ’90s, featuring stars such as Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, John Salley, Stephon Marbury and Dennis Scott.

The Yellow Jackets reached the Final Four for the first time in 1990, and made it all the way to the national championship game in 2004 under Cremins’ successor, Paul Hewitt.

“It is an incredible honor to be entrusted with leading such a tradition-rich program,” Stoudamire said. “I am excited to get to work with the goal of consistently having our team compete at the championship level that we all know we can and should compete at.”

The Yellow Jackets managed only two winning seasons and one NCAA Tournament win over Hewitt’s final six seasons. After he was fired in 2011, Brian Gregory failed to make the NCAAs during a largely forgettable five-year tenure that resulted in his dismissal.

Pastner left Memphis to take over the Yellow Jackets in 2016, bringing the reputation as a top-level recruiter. But Georgia Tech was barely noticed by the nation’s five-star prospects, and the lack of talent showed up in the record.

Other than that surprising run to the ACC Tournament title and a one-and-done appearance in the NCAAs in 2021, Pastner’s program showed little signs of progress over his seven-year stint.

The Yellow Jackets plummeted to 12-20 last season, finishing next-to-last in the ACC with a 5-15 mark. This season, they started 1-12 in conference play — including a nine-game losing streak — before a late run left them with a 6-14 mark and 13th-place finish.

Pastner finished with a record of 109-114 at Georgia Tech, including a 53-78 mark in the ACC.

The Yellow Jackets have fired their two most prominent coaches as well as its athletic director in the past six months. Football coach Geoff Collins and AD Todd Stansbury were dumped after a dismal start on the gridiron last season.

Batt replaced Stansbury and presided over searches that led to interim coach Brent Key remaining on as Collins’ full-time successor and the hiring of Stoudamire.

Collins was owed a buyout of more than $11 million, while Pastner will get some $2.5 million over the final three years of his contract, putting an additional strain on an athletic department that has struggled financially in recent years.

But Georgia Tech President Angel Cabrera expressed hope that Stoudamire can turn things around on the court.

“His impressive track record as a coach in college and the NBA, and his own experience as a student-athlete and professional player, will be invaluable assets for the institute’s men’s basketball program and our student-athletes,” Cabrera said.

In an interesting twist, Stoudamire was an assistant at Memphis from 2009-11 after Pastner took over as head coach for John Calipari, and returned to the Tigers for Pastner’s final season at the school in 2015-16.

Stoudamire also has been an assistant with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies as well as a two-year stint at his alma mater.

In his only head coaching job, he took over at Pacific in 2016 with the program coming off an 8-20 campaign. His best season was a 23-10 mark in 2019-20, when the Tigers won a school-record 11 WCC games and he was named conference coach of the year.

But he finished with a losing record overall and never guided the Tigers to a postseason berth.

Now, Stoudamire will get a chance to improve on his resume in the ACC.

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