It’s an exciting time for University of the Pacific (UOP) Men’s Basketball. After two years of probation and imposed scholarship limits following a NCAA scandal in 2016, the team has paid its dues, and Damon Stoudamire—in his third season with the team—is ready to make his mark.
“We’ll have a full roster,” Coach Stoudamire says. “That makes a big difference in how you can play, how you can recruit, how you can punish.”
After a move to the West Coast Conference three years ago, UOP has struggled against big shots like St. Mary’s College and Brigham Young University. But last year showed promise. Even without full scholarships available, the team pulled out the most wins in a season since joining the WCC with nine in total.
Stoudamire calls the WCC one of the more underrated conferences in the association, and with limits placed on his team from decisions made by prior coaching staff, he knew he was coming in at a serious disadvantage. “You’re playing at a deficit if you don’t have a full deck,” he says.
This year, however, Stoudamire has a new attitude. After a successful season of recruiting—where Stoudamire says he flourishes—and twelve scholarships available to the team for the first time in three years, he’s stacking his deck as best he can.
“The handcuffs are off so we’re moving forward,” Stoudamire says. “We’ve got the right group.”
UOP’s 2019-2020 team is full of players with heart and passion. When it comes to coaching, Stoudamire says he can teach players the game no problem, and while he is capable of instilling passion into players, it’s better for everyone if they step onto the court with that piece of the puzzle already in place. To get the most out of his players he looks for three attributes: play with pride, play with toughness, and compete.
“If you do those three things I can help you with the rest,” he says.
Stoudamire is also teaching his team to play like underdogs, a trait he says is important for winning in their position. The 5’ 10” former point guard, who spent the majority of his NBA career playing for the Toronto Raptors, is no stranger to thriving in the face of adversity.
“I was the underdog all the time. I always had to prove something,” Stoudamire says, adding he always played with a chip on his shoulder. The benefit is that there is no bull’s eye on UOP right now, and Stoudamire says instead of being the hunted, his team will be on the attack.
Behind the scenes, Stoudamire is focused on motivation. He wants this team to embrace their position, but he admits he has to get creative to push them. According to Stoudamire, every player on the team is an individual and they learn in different ways and are motivated in different ways. During practices he connects learning opportunities to real life scenarios or even television shows, however he can connect with the young men who play for him.
“I use real life experiences,” he says. “I’m a real life guy. I don’t sugar coat anything.”
Some of those real life experiences come from Stoudamire’s own breakout career. In 1995 he was selected as the seventh overall draft pick by the Raptors. That same year, he won rookie of the year. Later he would put in time on the court for the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, and San Antonio Spurs.
Coaching, however, is a different beast, but it’s one Stoudamire has had some time to settle into. He’s learned that he has less control on the court, but that he can dictate the game in new ways by motivating his players, observing his team, and making adjustments from the sidelines.
Off the court, he’s mentoring the men for success outside of basketball. To every player on his team he asks, what’s next? Whether you have 48 months left or 12 months left, it doesn’t matter.
“When the ball stops bouncing, it’s hard,” he says. “What are you going to do next?”
Catch a Game:
University of the Pacific
Alex G Spanos Center
3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton