In the Moment: Building Champions

Alumni coaches share their philosophies about creating an environment for winning

Tom Danehy and La Monica Everett-Haynes, Jacob Chinn photos

Tuning up the Process

Swiming and Diving Head Coach 
Rick DeMont ’79 
by La Monica Everett-Haynes

Rick DeMont, a record-setting swimmer and Olympic and International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, is known internationally as a sprint freestyle coach and revered for moving athletes toward breakthrough moments. 

DeMont believes success comes from a balanced combination of skill, discipline, and tenacity. 

“If you can tune up your process to the max, that is when you can improve,” DeMont says. “Some people don’t want to deal with what they aren’t good at, but it has to be part of what you do every day. You just have to be humble and deal with it — taking the worst of what you have and making it better. If not, you can’t get to the next skill level. 

“It is all about the process,” he says. This is where DeMont’s philosophical beliefs about swimming and his other love, painting, converge. 

DeMont began painting at a young age, and his watercolor landscapes have been shown at galleries in Arizona and across the U.S. 

He finds parallels between his professional passion and artistic practice. Both, he says, carry language and movement through tempos, intervals, balance, and composition. And both leave him feeling at once challenged and renewed. 

“Time disappears. I am absolutely in the moment,” he says. “That’s all process.” 

Sharing Wisdom

Basketball Assistant Coach 
Damon Stoudamire ’08
by Tom Danehy 

There is a scene in Hoosiers when head coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) gets kicked out of a game and his assistant, Shooter (Dennis Hopper), has to guide the team in the closing seconds of a close game. A similar expression to the pained look on Hopper’s face can be seen on UA basketball Assistant Coach Damon Stoudamire during any game, whether the Wildcats are up 30 or down two.

“I’m not really in pain,” explains Stoudamire. “It’s just that having played all those games (in college and the NBA), I see things before they happen. That’s a blessing for a player, but not always so much for a coach.”
After a stellar career as a Wildcat, winning the Pac-10 Player of the Year Award as a senior, Stoudamire was drafted by the Toronto Raptors and named NBA Rookie of the Year. He was later traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and played in his hometown for more than seven seasons.

When his playing days were over, he began coaching, and after several college and NBA positions, he found his way back to Tucson.

After 20 years, Stoudamire remains among the career leaders in eight statistical categories for Arizona and is a welcome face in McKale Center.

“It really does feel like home to me,” he says. “This is where I played my college ball, where we went to the Final Four, and where I got my degree. 

“That degree is special because I can show my kids that it’s important to finish what you start,” says Stoudamire, who returned to the UA to finish his degree in media arts. “It’s also good to show players that no matter where basketball takes them, they can always come back and finish things.”

The UA has long been known as Point Guard U, one of the reasons Stoudamire feels that he’s in the perfect place.

“Guards tend to see the game a special way,” he says, “and point guards have to be the smartest people on the floor.” 

“When I talk to these guys, they know what I’m saying comes from experience. I went through what they’re going through and I went through it at the same place.”

Top-level programs like the UA have heavy turnover, with some players — like last year’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Aaron Gordon — leaving after only one year. But education is still a priority at Arizona. 

“Aaron’s a good example. He left to pursue his basketball dream, but I have no doubt that he’ll get his degree someday. That’s the great part; you get the right people, teach them how to play the Wildcat way, and then watch them grow. It’s so much fun.”

Creating Trust

Volleyball Assistant Coach 
Charita Stubbs ’94 ’95 
by La Monica Everett-Haynes

Charita Stubbs, assistant coach for Arizona volleyball, is many coaches in one: the athlete, the motivator, the technician, and the judge. Most of all, she is the leader. 

She brings a high amount of energy and focus to the court and always pushes for professionalism. 

“I want them to know that this is a privilege; it’s a job,” she says.

Ultimately, Stubbs demands two things from players: accountability and coachability. “I don’t care about the end result. It will happen naturally with practice and time — but it will take longer if you don’t follow directions.” 

At the same time, she is attentive to subtle cues, recognizing that one player’s coy, downward turn of the eyes signals more than nervousness. It is a sign Stubbs must be a bit more attentive. 

“What I find is where they lack confidence on the court, they lack confidence in the world,” she says. “I like to make people think. I tell them, ‘You’re beautiful.’ ‘You can do it.’ I ask them: ‘What have you done to be a champion today?’” 

The care she brings to the team comes naturally, born of her experience as a student-athlete, a professional player, and a collegiate coach, along with her love for and training in education. 

Stubbs was a middle blocker at Arizona and was a member of the first Arizona volleyball team to reach the Sweet 16 — in 1993 and again in 1994. She also was a member of the U.S. Olympic Festival twice and played professional volleyball in France. 

Meanwhile, Stubbs earned both a bachelor’s degree, in political science, and a master’s degree in language, reading and culture from the UA. She finished her M.A. just before she coached Arizona volleyball the first time around, and has since begun the UA’s doctoral program in educational leadership. 

So when Stubbs observes that athletes are struggling to balance demands of the sport with academic requirements, media attention, constant travel, and relationships, she does not fall into frustration. 

“I want others to see what is possible,” Stubbs says.