(gomocs.com) CHATTANOOGA—The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball staff recently went through a little makeover, now it’s time to address the head coaching position. Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Mark Wharton announced the contract extension of Coach Lamont Paris through the 2024-25 season Thursday morning.
Paris just completed the second season in his original deal. This extension adds two seasons to the back end effectively making it a new six-year contract.
“I want to give a very sincere thank you to Mark Wharton and Dr. Steven Angle,” he shared. “I am very grateful for their support and efforts to make this happen.
“The foundation of any good relationship is commitment. We had a change in leadership at the athletic director’s position after I was hired so it’s a re-commitment having seen two years of what our plan is, what our growth has been and the vision moving forward. It feels great to have that belief in the plan, in the path we’re taking and the way we are doing things.
“It is very gratifying.”
He took over a program that won 88 games the prior four years but graduated six seniors. That included two four-year starters, a 3-time Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, it’s leading scorer over the previous two campaigns and two key pieces in the front and back court.
There were just five returnees that first season with only two having played significant minutes. That was followed by just one returning letter winner on last year’s squad. Through this roster renovation, the administration saw what it needed.
“It was important to us to continue the building efforts Lamont has taken over his first two years,” Wharton explained. “We believe in his vision for the program and how it has taken effect off the floor. We’re excited at the caliber of student-athlete he is bringing on campus and from I what saw in the Bahamas exhibition games, on the floor is soon to follow.
“We are excited in his commitment to us as much as we believe where the program is headed under his leadership.”
The program has exceeded its academic numbers since Paris’ arrival. The previous best GPA for the group was 2.66 over the Fall 2014 semester. That number was topped in three of his four semesters in Gig City including a program-record 2.97 last Fall.
“We are very proud of the academic progress this program has made,” Chancellor Dr. Steven Angle shared. “It is directly in line with the expectations Coach Paris instills on and off the court. It is clear that his values and those of UTC are well aligned.
“Lamont has recruited an impressive group of student-athletes, and we look forward to the years to come under his leadership.”
From his own perspective, that belief cemented Paris’ decision to sign on for the next six campaigns. He finally has a roster with experience together on the court as well as at the Division I level. The numbers are staggering.
2017-18: 144 Career Games (126 at UTC) with 12 starts (12)
2018-19: 165 Career Games (40) with 37 starts (18)
2019-20: 400 Career Games (189) with 183 starts (91)
“In a perfect world, you make the changes you need and build the foundation you need instantaneously,” he noted. “But when you’re doing things above board, it takes a little while to get the foundation where we have right now. It’s a very strong foundation in terms of the culture we’ve established and emphasis on academics. Those things in my experience, show themselves in tight games.
“We finally have it where we want it to be with good experience. Our young guys are really promising. We’ve done it with a mix of transfers and high school kids.
“Our level of excitement to coach these guys has never been higher. I was obviously excited on day one, but this group has us ready to get this season started.”
Paris came to Gig City in April 2017 from the University of Wisconsin where he was an assistant to both Bo Ryan and Greg Gard. The Badgers averaged 27 wins per year over his seven campaigns. They won a school-record 36 games in 2014-15 finishing as the national runner-up a year after reaching the Final Four in 2014 with Paris influence considered key in the rise in national prominence.
The program won 12 or more Big Ten games all seven seasons with Paris on the bench. They captured the league title in 2015 and never finished lower than fourth. Along with the two Final Fours, the program reached the Sweet 16 four more times.
Paris developed a reputation as a fantastic recruiter and developer of talent. He is credited with keying efforts with All-American and current Charlotte Hornet Frank Kaminsky as well as Los Angeles Clipper Sam Dekker, Sacramento King Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ among others.
Chattanooga opens practice next Tuesday, Sept. 24. The first chance to see the squad is Saturday, Oct. 26, in exhibition action vs. Covenant. The season opener is Tuesday, Nov. 5, at Eastern Kentucky, while the first home contest is against historic rival Tennessee State on Saturday, Nov. 9.