Despite that relative inexperience, Fox sees a quick learner with a diverse skillset along with ties to Atlanta.
“I think he’s really, really good,” Fox said.
Wilkins lived in Atlanta as a child and attended Therrell High for two years before moving to Cleveland. He played at Kent State (he was a junior on the Golden Flashes’ Elite Eight team in 2002), then played professionally for six years internationally and in the NBA’s D League (now called the G League). In 2011, he helped found the Stackhouse Elite AAU team in Atlanta with friend and former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse. In 2012, returned to Kent State to complete his degree and serve as player development director, then left for Tulane a year later.
“I think he’s going to be really successful, because I think he’s going to learn from Josh, he’s going to learn from Eric,” Fox said. “He’s going to be able to adapt really, really well.”
Stan Heath coached Wilkins at Kent State in the Elite Eight season. Heath, now the coach of the Lakeland Magic in the G League and the father of former Tech point guard Josh Heath, recalled a player who was passionate about the game and determined to improve to play professionally.
“I think he’s a great hire for Josh, I really do,” Heath said.
The two have connected occasionally since their time at Kent State, and Heath recognizes in Wilkins a skill for connecting with people. When Josh was a junior at Tech in the 2015-16 season, the Yellow Jackets played Tulane (with Wilkins on the staff) in New Orleans. Before the game, Wilkins made a point to pull aside and encourage Heath, who was going through an up-and-down season.
“It was just something that he didn’t have to do it,” Stan Heath said. “He just went out of his way and maybe tried to push a button for Josh.”
Fox saw the same trait in Wilkins’ willingness to invest in Tulane players off the court, whether it was getting together for a meal or watching game video.
“I’ve probably worked with 25 or 30 different guys that were assistant coaches,” Fox said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen anybody more committed (to spending time with players).”
Fox had plenty more to say about Wilkins – high attention to detail in scouting reports, a diverse and flexible approach to coaching offense (which he’ll be responsible for at Tech) and a relentless work ethic (“he’s going to live in the office,” Fox said). He made the observation that, in recruiting, Wilkins “values toughness over everything.”
Among players he recruited to Tulane was former Tech guard Justin Moore, who signed with Tulane before he was released following a coaching change. He said the areas that Wilkins recruited most were New Orleans, Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta.
“I’m biased because I think he’s one of the best guys I’ve ever worked with, but he’s good,” Fox said.