HATTIESBURG — Normally, the announcement of an assistant basketball coach would not be a big deal.
But when the new coach is considered the face of Southern Miss basketball, in addition to being a 13-year veteran of the NBA, no doubt people pay attention.
On Tuesday afternoon, Southern Miss announced the hiring of Clarence Weatherspoon, 45, who played for the Golden Eagles in 1988-92 and was the Metro Conference Player of the Year three times.
Doc Sadler also announced another assistant coach, Chris Croft, 43, who had been the USM director of basketball operations.
“I see it as coming full circle,” Weatherspoon said. “Coach Sadler put some recruiting pressure on me to come back, to be a part of the basketball program. One of the best ways I could do it was to come back and teach on the court from my experience as a professional but also as a person who had did it every step of the way, from junior high to high school, college, professional, professional career afterwards. I did it the right way by being a student-athlete and by being the best person and best basketball player I could be and I think that’s some of the things I can share with recruits and our players here. This was the right time for me to come back and lend a helping hand and be part of something I think that can be special.”
Sadler admitted Tuesday that he has not recruited Mississippi players well, and hopes Weatherspoon’s presence on his staff will help in that area.
“I told him, ‘If you could still score, I’d rather have you as a player than a coach,’” Sadler deadpanned. “But the state of Mississippi is going to be very, very excited.”
So will USM fans, many of whom remember the days when the 6-foot-6 “Spoon” averaged 18.5 points and 11.3 rebounds during his four-year college career in Hattiesburg. He is first on USM’s all-time list in rebounding (1,317) and blocked shots (227) and is second in scoring (2,130). He is the only player to have his number, 35, retired by Southern Miss.
He was drafted in the first round of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, and also played for the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. He averaged 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in his NBA career.
After his NBA career was over, Weatherspoon moved to the Jackson area but could frequently be seen attending Southern Miss games, bringing his family to their seats on the front row. He served as a volunteer coach at Ridgeland High School the past few years. His son has enrolled at Southern Miss and Weatherspoon said he may walk on to the basketball team.
Weatherspoon said he wasn’t sure he would be banging around under the basket.
“My glory days have passed,” he said, “but my knowledge and ability to instruct is still there. When those guys get a dunk, I get a dunk.”
Jeremy Cox and Tom Schuberth are no longer on the USM staff after spending the last two seasons working under Sadler.