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‘I want to be like him someday’: Why ex-Mavs star Jason Terry says Avery Johnson was the reason he became a coach

Terry was recently hired as an assistant coach at Arizona.

Former Mavericks star and current Arizona assistant coach Jason Terry appeared on The Zach Gelb Show recently to talk about his new job, a story about Mark Cuban and more. Here are some of the highlights:

On when in his career he realized he wanted to be a coach...

Terry: “Probably when Avery Johnson took over as the coach with the Dallas Mavericks. It was in my first season with the Mavs and halfway through, [Don Nelson] said ‘OK, guys, bring it in.' He was like ‘one, two, three, it’s Avery’s team!' We all looked like ‘oh my God. It’s over?' He just resigned on the spot and Avery took over.

“And once he took over, he took it upon himself to become my mentor and guide as I navigated how to become a professional and be a point guard, be a father, be a husband. He mentored me in all phases of my life. And at that particular time for a coach to be going through what he was going through as he became a new head coach in our league with all that responsibility, to take the time out of his job and to mentor a kid that was in his fourth season, it spoke volumes.

“And again, he’s been a guiding light in my life. I’ve always looked up to him and leaned on him in certain situations. I say, ‘Hey, man. I want to be like him one day, and have the opportunity to impact lives the way he did for me.‘”

On getting involved in coaching...

Terry: “I’ve always had a passion for coaching. Not only coaching, but impacting lives. So throughout my career in the league ... in the offseason, I spent a lot of time coaching those AAU grassroots basketball on the women’s side. So getting used to that process, recruiting and what have you, I figured at some point when I finish, when I retire, I believe I want to walk the sidelines as a coach — whatever level. Division I, men’s or women’s, but I know it was at the college level because I knew I could have a tremendous impact on young men or women in their journeys in life as they get ready and prepare for the rest of their lives.”

On how the Arizona coaching opportunity arose...

Terry: “Talked to Sean Miller last year, early. He and Jack Murphy, the associate head coach, and expressed my interest at possibly joining their staff at some time or another. They were thrilled, they were excited. They said they didn’t have a spot at the time, but maybe in the spring something might open up. This spring came around quicker than I thought.

“I was an assistant general manager with the Texas Legends, having a great time there dealing with those young G-League guys with aspirations of trying to become NBA players. Then when the spring rolled around, I got the phone call.

“For me, it’s a dream come true to be able to go back to my alma mater. Obviously, a place where I went from a boy to a man. Coach Lute Olson and staff did a great job with me in harboring that process in my life. Now I have the opportunity to do the same thing for some young men that come through the program in the future.”

On if his goal is to become a head coach eventually...

Terry: “Definitely. Definitely a head coach at the NBA or college level is something that I’d love to do. But right now, I’m solely focused on learning the craft, ins and outs of college basketball. Sean Miller is doing a great job of mentoring me and tutoring me and getting me on that path as I aspire to be a head coach one day down the road.

“I think in the immediate [future], we want to bring a national championship to the University of Arizona. That is what our goal is and we’re focused in on that mission, to a man. I’m excited.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Find more Mavericks stories from The Dallas Morning News here.

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