The surprise isn’t so much that Georgia Tech has hired Damon Stoudamire. It’s that the Jackets hired him so fast. Not 80 hours ago, Josh Pastner – another Arizona alumnus – still had the job. But if you’re sure this is who you want, there’s no reason to string things out for appearance’s sake. Time is money, as they say.

It’s clear J Batt knew what he wanted to do before the job came open. The savvy athletic directors do. Which, in a way, brings us back to Pastner. It’s believed Jeff Capel removed himself from consideration back in 2016, when Capel was a Duke assistant who wanted the Tech job, because Mike Bobinski, then the Jackets’ AD, took too long to get back to him.

Bobinski wound up hiring Pastner on April 8, 2016. Brian Gregory was fired on March 25, two days after Tech was beaten in Round 3 of the NIT. Bobinski went to the Final Four in Houston and interviewed coaches there. That used to be the custom. Things move faster now. Pastner was hired three days after the national championship game. Batt landed Stoudamire more than 24 hours before the First Four is set to commence in Dayton.

Stoudamire is an intriguing guy – a big-time guard alongside Khalid Reeves on Lute Olson’s Final Four team of 1994, which lost to eventual champ Arkansas; an NBA player for 13 seasons; an assistant under Pastner at Memphis and at Arizona under Sean Miller; a head coach for five seasons at Pacific; most recently an assistant for Ime Udoka and now Joe Mazzulla with the Celtics.

Stoudamire’s Pacific tenure wasn’t sterling. He had one winning season in the West Coast Conference, which is ruled by Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. Going 71-77 at a place where it’s hard to win – Pacific is based in Stockton, California – isn’t necessarily a disqualifier, or so Batt and Tech hope.

To reiterate: Recruiting at Georgia Tech shouldn’t be as hard as Gregory and Pastner made it seem. You’re an ACC program in the capital of the South. You shouldn’t want for players.

That Stoudamire doesn’t fit the usual hire-the-hot-mid-major guy process might be a good thing. Some mid-major coaches pan out in the bigger leagues. Many don’t. Having been around Arizona, Stoudamire knows how the big programs work. Once upon a time, Tech was itself a big deal. Stoudamire’s job is to make it one again.

That, it says here, can happen. The ACC, it again says here, is changing. North Carolina didn’t make the Big Dance, but Pitt (under Capel) did. Duke just won the conference tournament, but Duke’s coach is Jon Scheyer, who isn’t half as old as his immediate predecessor.

The neo-coach needs to know basketball at every level, from high school to the pros, and every available source of talent, from summer ball to the G League and, last but in no way least, the transfer portal.

We can assume Batt mentioned all the above, plus the particulars of NIL, to Stoudamire. We can assume he offered satisfactory answers, else he wouldn’t have gotten the job. Stoudamire has worked only briefly in the South, and that’s if we count Memphis. Still, Nate Oats came to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, by way of Buffalo, New York. He’s doing OK.

Stoudamire surely recalls the days when Georgia Tech stood eye-to-eye with Arizona in terms of guards. The Wildcats went from Steve Kerr to Kenny Lofton to Stoudamire/Reeves to Mike Bibby/Miles Simon to Jason Terry as the Jackets moved from Mark Price to Craig Neal to Kenny Anderson to Travis Best to Stephon Marbury. Stoudamire surely remembers when both programs were fixtures in the Top 25 and the NCAA Tournament. Arizona still is. Tech should be.

In a statement released by Tech, Batt said Stoudamire’s “success and credibility at both the collegiate and professional levels” render him “a great fit.” And that’s the idea. Stoudamire is 49. This is the post-playing job he has awaited. We’ll see if he’s the coach the Jackets have sought for the past dozen years.

Boston Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, filling in for interim head coach Joe Mazzulla, calls to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the LA Clippers, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP