Lamont Paris’ departure shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who follows the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program. On Sunday, Paris left for the head coaching gig at UT-Chattanooga.
While Paris has proved to be a skilled assistant coach, his time to take on a new challenge was now. However, his departure also means that Badgers head coach Greg Gard has a big opportunity ahead of himself.
Less than two years removed from taking over the UW program, Gard is now faced with the opportunity to bring in another new assistant coach. In fact, it will be the third hire he gets to make in filling out his staff.
Gard’s situation as head coach as been unique from the start. Unlike most coaches, he didn’t get to shape is staff out of whole cloth. Instead, he took the opening created by his promotion to re-hire old assistant Howard Moore back to the Badgers bench.
This past offseason saw the opportunity to bring on a former star player, as Joe Krabbenhoft replaced Gary Close, who stepped away after 13 years as an assistant coach himself.
Now, as Paris moves on to putting together his own program, Gard is in a position to make his third and final hire to his staff. If that doesn’t scream putting your own stamp on the program, not much else does.
There’s also the fact that this upcoming season will be the first to truly feature players that are all Gard’s doing. Whether by him being the lead recruiter as associate head coach or as the head coach signing off on offers and letters of intent, the team that will take the court in 2017-18.
What kind of stamp will Gard put on his coaching staff? If early indications hold true, you can bet Gard is going to turn to people who understand what this program is about.
Names like former assistant Rob Jeter and former players Freddie Owens and Sharif Chambliss have come to the forefront early on. Some are true names, others could be speculative at best.
However, given Gard has looked to UW’s past for his first two hires it shouldn’t be surprising to see him do it a third time. It also seems like the smart move for a program that has a clear identity and a clear path to success.
With four new starters to replace and a bunch of crazy-long streaks to live up to, Wisconsin faces a transformational year ahead. Gard is at the helm of it all and his next hire will likely set the stage for whatever will go down.
Getting assistants that understand that and bring their own flare to the job only makes sense.
Whomever Gard decides to hire, whatever happens from this season forward will certainly be all his to own. There isn’t a player or a coach that Gard hasn’t signed off on anymore.