Former UNC great Rasheed Wallace is coming back to the Triangle as a high school coach.
The former NBA star was named boys basketball coach at Durham Jordan on Friday. Wallace, 44, takes over for Kim Annas. Last season the Falcons finished 7-17 overall and 1-9 in conference play.
Known as much for his emotional outbursts as his rim-rattling dunks, Wallace felt like the timing was right for him to get into coaching.
“I did have some offers from a few NBA teams to be on their staff,” Wallace said. “The money was good, but it’s not about the money to me, it’s about that knowledge. Knowledge should be free and it doesn’t cost anything to pass that knowledge to these young men.”
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Wallace is the third former Tar Heel to lead a high school team in the Triangle. David Noel, who played at UNC from 2002-06, returned to Durham Southern to coach the Spartans. Donald Williams, the 1993 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, is the girls basketball coach at Wakefield High.
Wallace, a native of Philadelphia, played two seasons at UNC before he was selected fourth overall by the Washington Bullets in the 1995 NBA Draft. During his NBA playing days, Wallace was a four-time All-Star and played 16 seasons for six different teams, winning a title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Wallace briefly served as an assistant with the Pistons during the 2013-14 season.
After a quick stint on the Detroit staff, Wallace returned to Durham. He didn’t always have the coaching bug, but got a taste of it when his kids played AAU basketball. That experience was “kind of fun” but Wallace didn’t know if it was something he could do full time. Then someone told him it would be no different than being a veteran on the court, helping young players adjust to the NBA game. This time he would have to trade in his jersey for a dress shirt instead.
“When I was there playing, I had my younger guys on the team and I was teaching,” Wallace said. “This just keeps it going and I had that (coaching) bug since then.”
Falcons athletic director Shelba Levins knew Annas was retiring at the end of the season and had to do a double take when she saw that Wallace applied.
“I knew he was interested in coaching,” Levins said. “He applied and I jumped right on it. I can’t even tell you how excited I am.”
When Wallace played he wore his emotions and passion on his sleeve, not always in a good way. Wallace holds the single-season record for technical fouls, picking up 41 over a span of 80 games during the 2000-01 season. In 2003 he was suspended seven games for threatening an official after a game.
“The passion is there,” Wallace said. “But with me being older and not being out there on the court, it’s two separate things. When I was out there on the floor that was me being at work. I’m passionate about my work.”
In 1996, during his rookie season, Wallace was charged in Durham County with assaulting a former girlfriend and accepted deferred prosecution. Levins said they did their due diligence and understands that was in the past.
“He’s older now and he knows how important it is that we have great sportsmanship,” Levins said. “One thing about working with the public schools, you have to have a background check so everything was fine.”
Wallace met his new team briefly before his press conference on Friday where it was also announced that former MEAC Player of the Year and North Carolina Central guard Pat Cole would be his assistant.
His players weren’t even born during his All-American days at UNC, and were too young to remember his dominance in the NBA. Joaquin Davis, a junior on the basketball team at Jordan, admitted he didn’t know too much about his new coach.
“I searched him and saw all the accolades he has,” Davis said.
Davis remembers getting an autograph from Wallace when he used to play in the NC Pro-Am Summer League at North Carolina Central. He heard rumors this week that Wallace was the new coach and couldn’t believe it would happen until he found himself sitting in front of Wallace.
“Just to have him here, he knows a lot about the game,” Davis said. “It’s amazing because he’s been through so much and knows a lot of things about the game. He’s been there, he’s going to give us all those aspects and it’s going to help us tremendously.”
When asked about his style of play, Wallace simply replied “hard work.”
He played for a pair of Hall of Fame coaches: Dean Smith at UNC and Larry Brown in Detroit. Wallace will take lessons from both coaches as he leads the Falcons.
“I would say patience and getting to know your guys,” Wallace said. “If you get to know your guys they will buy into what you are saying. If you are straight forward with them, straight laced, they showed me to be there for your team and each individual player.”
Another local Hall of Fame coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, endorsed the hire.
“Rasheed is a great guy. He’s a pro’s pro,” Krzyzewski said. “I know him. Obviously I don’t know him as well as they know him (at UNC). He’s a top-notch guy. What a great get. It’s great. I love that. I just saw that and it brought a smile to my face, that he would do that. How lucky are they? That’s a pretty good get for them.”