Former MU Bear Sam Mitchell Joins New Jersey Nets Coaching Staff
MACON, Ga. – Former Mercer University men’s
basketball standout Sam Mitchell has been named as an assistant
coach for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) New
Jersey Nets, it was announced earlier this week. Mitchell also had
very successful stints as both an NBA player and coach, as
Mitchell joined new Nets head coach Avery Johnson’s staff, after last serving as head coach of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors from 2004-08. Mitchell was the 2006-07 NBA “Coach of the Year” after leading Toronto to its first-ever Atlantic Division title and a franchise-record tying 47 wins.
Mitchell starred for the Bears’ program from 1981-85. Arguably, the greatest player in the history of Mercer University basketball is second on the school’s career scoring list and was the 1985 Atlantic Sun Conference “Player of the Year,” finishing his collegiate career with 1,986 points. He led Mercer to the 1985 A-Sun championship and a berth in NCAA tournament against nationally-ranked Georgia Tech.
When he left Mercer, Mitchell was the Bears leader in the following categories: scoring (career & season), field goals made (career & season), most free throws made (season), and free throws attempted (season) and still holds all but the career scoring mark to this day.
At the 1985 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament pre-draft camp, he was tabbed the most valuable player. Mitchell was drafted in the third round (54 overall) by the Houston Rockets in the 1985 NBA Draft. He began his NBA career in 1989 as a free agent with the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves, but before entering the NBA, he paid his dues. Mitchell played three years in the Continental Basketball Association where he helped the Rapid City (S.D.) Thrillers to a championship and also in France’s top professional league for two seasons (1987-89).
In 1989, he signed his first NBA contract on the back of Billy McKinney, Minnesota’s player personnel director, prior to a summer league game in San Antonio. He played three seasons in Minnesota before being acquired by the Indiana Pacers in September 1992. He returned to the Timberwolves as a free agent in 1995 where he played an instrumental role in the on-and off-court development of 18-year-old rookie Kevin Garnett, who became the first player in 20 years to be drafted directly out of high school.
Mitchell split his playing career between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers. He appeared in 994 regular season games and 59 postseason contests, missing just 40 games to injury or illness throughout his career. He posted averages of 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists. He ranks second all-time in Timberwolves history behind only Kevin Garnett in games played with 757 and second with 7,161 points, 1,773 free throws made, 2,664 field goals made, 3,030 rebounds and 449 steals.
Following his playing career, Mitchell went into coaching as an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks, and Charlotte Bobcats before being named the sixth head coach of the Toronto Raptors in 2005.
In 2010, Mitchell was inducted in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (located in the city of Macon).
Mitchell’s addition to the Nets staff could have many positive returns for the team, according to ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard who wrote “The addition of Mitchell could also be a benefit in free agency, as Mitchell has a strong reputation among players. Mitchell coached Chris Bosh, one of this summer's most coveted free agents, in Toronto for more than four seasons, and Bosh has credited him for much of his development.”
Mitchell was born September 2, 1963. He and his wife, Anita, have four children: Morgann and Maya, and twins Rhagan and Rhana. He has been active in numerous charitable efforts through the years, particularly with the Special Olympics.