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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


New UA hoops assistant better than on paper

While college basketball may not officially start until November, the basketball atmosphere remains alive in Tucson.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller has already had to say goodbye to many affiliated with the men’s basketball team who have left for the NBA, such as T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson, but the list wouldn’t stop there. After the departure of former hoops great and top-assistant Damon Stoudamire back to the University of Memphis to assist Josh Pastner, the Wildcats hired Mark Phelps as his replacement.

Stoudamire is the first member of the Wildcat coaching staff to leave this season, and he brings an NBA pedigree and a prestigious career as a Wildcat to Memphis—assets extremely valuable to any team.

While Stoudamire’s exit may be tough on the Wildcats, Phelps is no slouch in his own way. He led the Drake Bulldogs to 77 wins and a pair of postseason appearances from 2009-2013. Phelps’ 77 wins is a program record at Drake for any head coach in their first five seasons.

Phelps was a candidate to be an Arizona assistant back in 2013 with the departure of James Whitford to become the head coach of Ball State University, but his position was awarded to Stoudamire.

Before becoming an assistant at Arizona, Phelps held assistant coaching positions at multiple universities such as Missouri, Marquette, North Carolina State and Arizona State University. Phelps and Miller already have an established rapport as the two were on the NC State coaching staff from 1996-2001.

Phelps was also a highly successful high school boys’ basketball coach in the ’90s, prior to making it into the college ranks. During his stint in high school coaching, he led Rock Church Academy in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., (1990-94) to a 104-41 record and Atlantic Shores Christian High School (1994-96), to a 44-12 record.

Along with having coached with Miller before, Phelps brings experience to the team with 18 years of Division 1 coaching and five trips to March Madness under his belt.

Phelps is also a key addition due to his abilities as a recruiter and developer. He was instrumental in the success of Julius Hodge at NC State: After helping land New York’s “Mr. Basketball” for the 2000-2001 season, his guidance helped Hodge become the 2004 ACC Player of the Year and third all-time leading scorer with 2,040 points.

While Phelps was an assistant at ASU for a period of time, it is great to have him on the sidelines this upcoming season as the Wildcats look to win their second national championship and first under Miller. Phelps’ passion and knowledge for the game of basketball will definitely be appreciated in Tucson in the near future.

Even though Phelps is the new guy, he steps into an Arizona program that can use him for his relentless recruiting, which will take some of the load off of Miller. His experience at the coaching level will add another dimension to the Wildcat coaching staff. 

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