Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Jason Zimmerman new Emory head coach


Emory University Athletics Director Betsy Stephenson has announced Jason Zimmerman’s appointment as head men’s basketball coach. Zimmerman will start his duties immediately.

“I want to thank Betsy Stephenson and all those involved in the search process for selecting me to lead the Emory men’s basketball program,” Zimmerman said. “Emory University strives for excellence in all areas and we look forward to having the basketball program reach that level of excellence.

“The reputation of Emory, its fine facilities, and the high regard that the University Athletic Association is held in made the job appealing,” Zimmerman stated. “Emory is about success and when you are around successful people, good things can happen. My family and I are honored and excited about joining the Emory family.”

Zimmerman, a native of Warsaw, Indiana, brings a wealth of experience to the Emory program having spent the last 11 seasons as an assistant coach at the Division I level.

Zimmerman spent seven seasons on the Davidson staff, where he worked for Bob McKillop, from 1996-97 through 2002-03. During his tenure, the Wildcats compiled an impressive 122-81 record and competed in the 1998 and 2002 NCAA Tournaments. Davidson won North Division championships in the Southern Conference in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2003, and won the Southern Conference Tournament in 1998 and 2002.

“Jason Zimmerman is the type of person that you want your son to play for,” said McKillop, a six-time SoCon Coach of the Year. “He is a superb coach and caring individual. He will maximize the talents of those who play for him.

“He has the ability to get on the court and show what has to be done and how to do it,” McKillop continued. “Jason has the unique capacity to get players to blend and play roles. He is adept at getting players to grasp the team concept nature of the game while highlighting their individual strengths.”

Most recently, Zimmerman spent the 2003-04 through 2006-07 seasons as an assistant at the University of Evansville under Steve Merfeld. While with the Purple Aces, he coached Matt Webster and Clint Cuffle to All-Missouri Valley Conference honors while recruiting and coaching Jason Holsinger to the MVC 2005-06 All-Freshman Team.

“Jason is the kind of person who fits in well with the people he comes in contact with,” Merfeld said. He will have a positive impact on the student-athletes he will work with.

“He is extremely talented when it comes to skill development and he is an exceptional recruiter because of his ability to relate well to people. He has a true passion for the game of basketball and for coaching.”

Zimmerman was a four-year letterwinner at Davidson where he concluded his career as the school’s No. 18 all-time leading scorer with 1,260 points. One of the top players in the Southern Conference, he finished fourth in career free throw percentage and seventh in career assists, and was a member of Davidson’s 1994 NIT team. Jason also earned Davidson’s Thomas A. Sparrow Award for commitment to collegiate athletics. He graduated from Davidson in 1994 and earned his bachelor’s degree in economics.

“We are thrilled to have Coach Zimmerman lead our men’s basketball program,” Stephenson said. “His Division I background as both a student-athlete and coach has provided him the blueprint on how to be successful and prepared him for his role as Emory’s head coach.

Jason and his wife, Traci, have a son, Trevor, and daughter, Taylor.

From The Emory Wheel
(Emory student paper)

Sports: Men's B-Ball Coach Hired

After searching for 40 days and sifting through more than 200 applications, Emory has selected University of Evansville (Ind.) Assistant Coach Jason Zimmerman as the men's basketball program's fourth head coach on Monday.

"He just has a great combination of experience and skills that we think will serve Emory well," Director of Athletics and Recreation Betsy Stephenson said.

Most recently, Zimmerman spent the past four seasons as an assistant to Evansville Head Coach Steve Merfeld, who resigned at the end of this last season. Zimmerman said he's excited for the opportunities ahead at Emory.

"Emory University and its excellence in every aspect makes it exciting because the basketball program can be built around that excellence," he said.

The Eagles finished 8-17 overall and 2-12 in UAA conference play this past year, marking their worst season in more than a decade. Zimmerman will be charged with rebuilding a program that has not made the NCAA tournament in 17 years.

And while Zimmerman's most recent coaching experience came in Indiana, his experiences as a player and assistant coach at Division I Davidson College may have had more to do with his hiring. After the resignation of former Emory Head Coach Brett Zuver on Feb. 28, Stephenson said she wanted a coach with "experience with selective admissions." Zimmerman faced that challenge when recruiting as an assistant coach for seven years at Davidson.

"It was really important [he had that]," Stephenson said. "It's hard enough to do that job without understanding how you weave through the recruiting process. He did that for the entire time he was at Davidson."

Viewers of this year's NCAA tournament may remember the Wildcats nearly knocking off the University of Maryland in the first round of this year's March Madness.

"They were everyone's upset pick," Emory junior guard Claude Pardue Jr. said.

Stephenson first learned about Zimmerman the same week.

"A friend told me I need to call this guy soon," she said.

Zimmerman helped Davidson to its current status as a perennial contender in the Southern Conference and went with the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament in 1998 and 2002 as an assistant under current Wildcats' head coach Bob McKillop.

"I was part of rebuilding that program with Coach McKillop, and I had a great mentor in that process," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman hopes to transfer that rebuilding energy to Emory, where the Eagles program appears on paper to be in disarray. The Eagles lost six seniors, four starters and a head coach in the week following the wrap-up of an 8-17 season.

Junior guard Spiros Ferderigos, who has led the Eagles in scoring each of the past two seasons, said he's excited for a fresh start with Zimmerman.

"We're definitely not performing well and definitely rebuilding," he said. "It's good to know we have someone who has been [through rebuilding] as a player and as a coach."

Players met with three finalists late last week, and Pardue and Ferderigos said most team members endorsed the hiring of the two of the candidates. The decision ultimately rested with Stephenson, who emphasized that player input was an important part of the process.

"Their opinions mattered," she said. "If there was wholesale support, or marginal support or no support, it made a difference."

According to Emory Assistant Coach Jimmy Paulis, the finalists included one head coach and two assistant coaches. Paulis also met with the finalists and plans to keep his name in the running as Zimmerman decides on an assistant for next season. Emory's new head coach said he hasn't decided who his assistant will be, but he wants "someone who has a great understanding of Emory."

Paulis thinks his six years of experience at Emory and four as a player in Division III could be an asset for Zimmerman, who has spent the last 15 years in Division I. He is also exploring the possibility of becoming a Division III head coach elsewhere and did not apply for the head job at Emory.

"Through interaction with [Stephenson], I think they were looking to kind of go in a different direction," Paulis said. "Based on that communication, I just thought it would be in the best interest of everybody for me not to pursue it."

Whoever joins Zimmerman's staff will likely be coaching a style of play the Eagles haven't used in recent years. Pardue said that Zimmerman talked about employing a lot of secondary break and fast break options offensively, and he thinks that will suit Emory's returning personnel well.

"You look at our [returning] big guys, and they're fast players," Pardue said. "After watching Davidson, if he comes in and implements the same thing, I think it could be pretty successful."

Zimmerman said he likes his teams to "be aggressive on both ends of the court," and the Eagles might have to be next season. Emory returns just two players taller than 6-foot-3, and Ferderigos said Zimmerman's more aggressive style will suit Emory well next year.

"We're definitely going to be a little small next year if no big men come in," he said. "We're going to have to play uptempo. Maybe we can get a couple big men in, but we're probably going to need to be a running team."

Regardless of next season's outcome, Emory basketball takes its next step behind the vision of Zimmerman. Pardue believes that vision can bring Emory to the next level.

"He sees Emory with the potential to be an elite program, and we have everything here to have that," he said.

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