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Friday, September 01, 2006

Tigers Hire Former Depaul and NBA Guard Rod Strickland to Staff

Calipari hires ex-NBA guard for staff

By Jim Masilak, Memphis Commercial Appeal
August 31, 2006

University of Memphis men’s basketball coach John Calipari on Thursday confirmed the hiring of former NBA point guard Rod Strickland as the Tigers’ new assistant coordinator of basketball operations. The 40-year-old Strickland, a native of New York City and a former DePaul standout, played for eight teams during his 17-year NBA career, most notably the New York Knicks, the then Washington Bullets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

A first-round draft pick by the Knicks in 1988, Strickland went on to average 13.2 points and 7.3 assists per game before retiring following the 2004-05 season. "He may have been the best point guard in the league who didn’t have the big name. He could drive and get in the lane and do what we’re trying to do here," Calipari said. "He’ll be a great resource for these guys even if he’s not in a coaching position."

Strickland, who now lives in Maryland, was at the Finch Center on Thursday as the Tigers began two weeks of individual workouts.

He will assume the duties, if not the title, of former coordinator of basketball operations Milt Wagner, who left last month to join former U of M assistant Tony Barbee’s staff at Texas-El Paso.

Calipari has yet to determine the hierarchy in his revamped operations staff, where Andy Allison is in line for a possible promotion and former U of M point guard Shyrone Chatman was hired earlier in the week.

Strickland’s ties to Calipari date to the coach’s NBA days with the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

Strickland has attended a number of Tiger games in the past and it was his relationship with former Tiger forward Arthur Barclay that helped him land his new job. Strickland struck up a friendship with Barclay and former Tiger Dajuan Wagner while they were playing at Camden (N.J.) High.

"I got a phone call from (Barclay) saying that Coach was interested in hiring me," Strickland said. "I called (Calipari) about two seconds after that. Coach told me about the opportunity. I was listening but I was ready to say, ‘Yeah.’ All he had to say was, ‘Do you want the job?’"

Strickland, who said he is still about a year and a half away from earning his undergraduate degree — he left DePaul following his junior season — began taking courses at the U of M on Thursday.

He needs his degree before he can think about becoming a full-time college assistant.

"That’s the biggest challenge — just being back in class with young people. Even now my stomach is a little funny," Strickland said. "I played in front of 20,000 people and I’m nervous about going to class."

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