The Michigan Daily - SPRTSThursday - Thursday, January 5, 1995 - 3
The former Wisconsin coach talks about
* the difficulties of starting a new team
At the age of 38, and after being
associated with professional basket-
ballforonlyfive seasons, Stu Jackson
was tabbed by the Vancouver Griz-
zlies, one of the NBA 's two new ex-
pansion franchises, to be their Vice
President of Basketball Operations
and General Manager.
came in 1985, when he was named as
one of Rick Pitino's assistants at
Providence College. After serving as
an assistant to Rick Pitino at Provi-
dence and with New York Knicks ,
Jackson took over the Knicks once
Pitino departedfor Kentucky in 1989.
Following his stint in New York,
he worked in the NBA offices before
geing named head coach at Wiscon-
sin where he was asked to rebuild the
basketball program. In his second
season in Madison, 1993-94, he took
the Badgers to theirffirst NCAA tour-
nament in 47 years.
This past summer the Grizzlies
asked Jackson to be a part of the
"ground floor" of their franchise.
Realizing that this was the position
that he had strivedfor throughout his
*career, he took the post with open
Daily Sports Writer Alan
Goldenbach spoke with Jackson re-
cently about his new job in Vancouver
as well as his many other experiences
This is part one of a two-part se-
ries with Jackson.
Daily: With this new job, you
have now had jobs in numerous ca-
pacities in a very brief amount of
time. But this one in Vancouver has to
be the most challenging. What spe-
cifically makes it so challenging?
Jackson: Well, obviously, you
don't get the opportunity many times
in professional sports to actually be a
part of the ground floor. What makes
it challenging is putting the franchise
together from scratch in terms of get-
*ing a team, a coach and selling tick-
ets and marketing and anything you
can think of in terms of beginning
f You have the extra added chal-
lenge of taking NBA basketball across
the United States border into Canada
for the first time which is also an
exciting opportunity. There are nu-
merous challenges, but that is what
makes it fun.
D: Recent expansion franchises
in the NBA haven't fared so well in
their first seasons. It usually takes a
few years of seasoning along with a
little success in the lottery for a
team to achieve success as exempli-
fied by Orlando and Charlotte. What
do you expect from the Vancouver
Grizzlies not only for the first year,
but for the their first few seasons of
J: Well, I expect that we'll keep
improving. I think the important thing
is that you field a team that is com-
petitive and that works very hard and
at the same time is always looking to
increase in value either through skill
development oran acquisition of more
But there is obviously an amount
of luck involved. That is drafting the
right players and sometimes, as in the
case of Charlotte and Orlando, being
lucky in the lottery.
However, in this day in age, get-
ting that lucky in the lottery just won't
happen because it's been changed to
give the weaker teams more of a
weighted chance. But at the same
time, there aren't any Shaquille
O'Neals out there. So you just have to
keep building and adding value.
D: Speaking of the lottery, you
will be drafting very high in the 1995
draft. Are there any players that you
have picked out so far that you have
had your eye on or that you really like
J: There are a lot of players that I
like a lot. But the depth of the draft
will be dependent on the number of
underclassmen that declare them-
selves for the draft.
D: At your new position in
Vancouver, you have to scout both
collegiate and professional players.
How often do you go out scouting?
J: Well, I'm not getting out as
much as I would like because our
efforts are directed in other direc-
tions. But I try to get out two or three
times a week and generally on the
weekends. Come later January and
February, we'll really start to focus in
on scouting college players.
D: Your job ,before coming to
Vancouver was as the coach of the
University of Wisconsin basketball
team. For them, the equivalent of
scouting is going out and recruiting
high school players. Can you com-
pare the process of scouting players
for an NBA team and recruiting for
J: Well, there really is no com-
parison. They are two completely dif-
ferent animals. There's a certain
amount of salesmanship that you have
to tale into account when you are
trying to recruit high school athletes.
Also, because of the new NCAA rules,
you really don't have the chance to
scrutinize players' games at the level
you do in theprofessional ranks where
we see a player individually upwards
to four, five or six times live.
D: Speaking of Wisconsin, during
your brief tenure, you must have some
fond memories. What can you say
about those times?
J: I liked being at the University
of Wisconsin and coaching that team.
I would have liked to have coached it
for many years. But youjust don't get
the opportunity to be on the ground
floor of the franchise very often.
Certainly, from a timing stand-
point, who would have expected that
it would come now? But we think we
did a good job at Wisconsin and left
behind a very sound program.
D: Two of the players that you
coached at Wisconsin, Michael Finley
and Rashard Griffith, are both enor-
mous talents. What are your opinions
of each of them and their prospects
for careers in the NBA?
J: Both of them are NBA pros-
pects that potentially have the ability
to play in the league. Mike is going to
be in this league and Rashard has got
some development to do and I'm sure
that he's going to be in the league as
D: The Big Ten conference is ar-
guably the toughest conference in the
NCAA for basketball. The teams,
coaches and fans are all very intense.
Can you comment at all on what it
was like to coach in the Big Ten?
J: It's a great conference. Great
teams, great players, great coaches.
Very exciting and generally sold out
arenas every night. Not only was it
one of the more talented conferences
in the country, but one of the more
exciting to play in and coach in. It was
a wonderful experience.
D: Almost four years of your ca-
reer was spent as an assistant coach,
and then as a head coach of the New
York Knicks. What memories do you
have of that job?
J: Very fond memories. Coaching
with the New York Knicks may be the
toughest and at the same time, most
rewarding job in basketball today. I
really enjoyed my time there and as a
matter of fact, I'm still very much a
Knick fan. Until next October.
D: In 1989, when you were pro-
moted to head coach of the Knicks,
was it especially rewarding for you
after being an assistant for so many
J: It felt good. As an assistant
coach, you really try to prepare your-
self for an opportunity like that; to
become a head coach, not necessarily
head coach of the New York Knicks.
I felt that we did a good job and it was
a good experience.
D: When you were promoted to
that position, you were only 33 years
old. That factor along with the pres-
sure of coaching in New York consid-
ered, did you feel at all that you were
too young for the job at the time?
J: No, not at all. I didn't feel that
age was a factor. I felt that I was very
prepared going into it. I had a good
relationship with the players and we
won a few games - maybe not as many
as we would have liked - but we won
a few. But I felt very prepared.
N Forrest Fires
was out of his league
AN DIEGO - Tyrone, you should have gone pro. You could
have carved a niche for yourself with a respectable rookie season
in the NFL. Instead, your decision to stay at Michigan backfired not
only on yourself, but on your team as well.
I remember the scene as though it was yesterday. Tyrone Wheatley
stood at the podium in Schembechler Hall about to announce his decision
to enter the 1994 NFL draft.
For some strange reason, though, he did the unexpected, saying he
would stay in college for his senior season.
He was the type of guy who always did the unexpected, they said. He
was a unique individual, they said. But who ever said unexpected and
unique were inherently good?
It would have been easy for Wheatley to have gone pro after his junior
year. For this, no decision was needed. Practically everyone else in his
position went for the money. But he made a distinct choice and should be
applauded for that.
However, for the sake of the Michigan football team, some stands are
better left untaken.
Before the season even started,
Wheatley was a pain in the team's
side. A Heisman Trophy
frontrunner who was injured before
the year's first game, Wheatley
8* became a negative force.
Already there was too much
talk; everyone wondered if the
Wolverines could win without their
But fans got a peek at what
Michigan would have been like if
Wheatley had done the expected. In
wins over Boston College and at
... Notre Dame, Tshimanga
Biakabutuka carried the ball just
fine, thank you, hitting the 100-yard
mark in each contest.
There was a certain chemistry
Wheatley on the team as it headed into the
matchup with Colorado, and much
more was expected with Wheatley on the field.
Wheatley returned to action against the Buffaloes and was rusty indeed.
Worse than that, he stole carries from Biakabutuka and unraveled a tight
Michigan should have beaten Colorado anyway, and Wheatley is no
more a scapegoat than any other Wolverine. But for whatever reason, when
Wheatley returned to the lineup, Michigan returned to age-old form, losing
its grasp on perfection.
From the Iowa game onward, Wheatley was an albatross around coach
Gary Moeller's neck. The tailback saw 35 carries against the Hawkeyes -
a career high.
It seemed as if Moeller felt compelled to hand Wheatley the ball, even
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