Photo by Nathan Smith
By Peyton Gray, Sports Editor-
Despite the heartbreaking loss to ETSU at the Southern Conference Tournament, the 2020-21 UTC men’s basketball team still had an illustrious season. Collegeinsider.com took notice of this and has nominated head coach Lamont Paris for two prestigious awards.
The first of these being the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award. This honor is awarded annually to an NCAA Division I men’s basketball head coach who also exhibits a strong moral character off the court. Paris is one of 25 nominees to have been recognized.
Additionally, Paris has been nominated for the Ben Jobe Award. The Ben Jobe Award is presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding minority men’s basketball coach in NCAA Division I. This is yet another award for which there are 25 finalists.
Though the season didn’t end as planned, the Mocs boasted an 18-8 record, where David Jean-Baptiste was the only returning starter from the previous season. Jean-Baptiste, not surprisingly, earned second-team All-SoCon honors.
Joining him in the backcourt was Wright State transfer, Malachi Smith. The two of them formed a dynamic pair and Smith was named first-team All-SoCon.
The starting lineups for this season came as a surprise to even the Mocs. Injuries and illnesses — specifically COVID-19 related illnesses — made UTC’s season everything but easy. To put this in perspective: No starting lineup was the same for more than a 5-game stretch.
Redshirt junior guard, A.J. Caldwell, became a consistent starter. This is quite the transition considering he made 33 appearances last season but only started two games.
Chattanooga also utilized players such as Stefan Kenic, Josh Ayeni, Jamaal Walker, KC Hankton and Jaden Frazier.
But Paris has always been a proven winner, even before joining the Mocs. He has a unique ability to alter the style of play based on the five players he has on the court.
Before his arrival to campus, teams associated with him had a record 497-217. This includes five conference titles, 12 NCAA Tournament appearances and three Final Fours.
Paris began his assistant coaching career at his alma mater, College of Wooster (1997-98). From there he went to DePaw (1999-00) and Indiana Univeristy of Pennsylvania (2001-04).
He then took his talents to Akron — where he spent six seasons as the lead recruiter. With his help, Akron saw their first 20-win season since 1974-75, averaged 23-plus wins a year and had a record of 139-62 over those six years.
Paris then moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he oversaw the Badgers become a dominant force in the Big Ten for seven years. With him on the bench, Wisconsin averaged 27 wins per year and had a school record of 36 wins in 2014-15.
Paris then brought his success to the Scenic City — where it has been apparent the past four years.
The nomination couldn’t have been more suited. Paris is a long-time member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and the Black Coaches Association.
Additionally, he was inducted into Kaleidoscope Magazine’s Forty-Forty Club in 2007 — a list that consists of Cleveland’s top 40 African-Americans aged 40 and under who have made a differnce in the community.
The winners for the Skip Prosser Man of the Year award and the Ben Jobe Award are announced April 1.