The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball team completed an historic season. Historic in a lot of ways on and off the court, but that’s to be covered more in depth in the coming days. The 2020-21 campaign caught the eyes of two national coaching awards with eyes focused on fourth-year head coach Lamont Paris both from CollegeInsider.com.
One is the Skip Prosser Man of the Year. Paris is one of 25 finalists for the award that honors those who not only achieve success on the basketball court but display moral integrity off the floor as well. He’s joined by Casey Alexander (Belmont), Chris Beard (Texas Tech), Mike Boynton (Oklahoma State), Wayne Brent (Jackson State), John Dunne (Marist), Dana Ford (Missouri State), Leonard Hamilton (Florida State), Lew Hill (UTRGV), Chris Holtmann (Ohio State), Michael Huger (Bowling Green), Donte’ Jackson (Grambling), Mike Jones (Radford), Robert Jones (Norfolk State), Pat Kelsey (Winthrop), Tod Kowalczyk (Toledo), Greg Lansing (Indiana State), Shantay Legans (Eastern Washington), Carmen Maciariello (Siena), Bob Marlin (Louisiana), Ryan Odom (UMBC), Mark Schmidt (St. Bonaventure), Rob Senderoff (Kent State), Todd Simon (Southern Utah) & Byron Smith (Prairie View A&M).
The other is the Ben Jobe Award. It targets the nation’s top minority head coach. He’s joined on the 25-person list by Mike Boynton (Oklahoma State), Wayne Brent (Jackson State), Kevin Broadus (Morgan State), Isaac Brown (Wichita State), Dana Ford (Missouri State), Dennis Gates (Cleveland State), Leonard Hamilton (Florida State), Lew Hill (UTRGV). Shaheen Holloway (Saint Peter’s), Juwan Howard (Michigan), Stan Johnson (Loyola Marymount), Terrence Johnson (Texas State), Mike Jones (Radford), Robert Jones (Norfolk State), Will Jones (North Carolina A&T), Rob Lanier (Georgia State), Shantay Legans (Eastern Washington), Mike Magpayo (UC Riverside), Bashir Mason (Wagner), Ritchie McKay (Liberty), Richie Riley (South Alabama), Kelvin Sampson (Houston), Shaka Smart (Texas), Byron Smith (Prairie View A&M).
Paris led the Mocs to an 18-8 record returning just one starter from the prior year’s 20-win season. That returning starter, David Jean-Baptiste, was basically a 4-year opener for Paris earning second team All-Southern Conference honors. He was joined in the backcourt by Wright State transfer Malachi Smith. Smith came off his sit out year like few before him claiming first team All-SoCon as the duo formed the league’s top guard pairing.
The group saw Stefan Kenić and A.J. Caldwell step into more prominent role than the year before, while transfers Darius Banks, KC Hankton and Josh Ayeni made immediate impacts. Redshirt freshman Jamaal Walker showed his enormous potential after a development year as did Jaden Frazier.
Injuries, illness, international diplomacy all threw curve balls at Paris and his able staff. His active roster did not stay consistent throughout with no single lineup combining for more than a 5-game stretch. Despite that fact, they remained a factor in the Southern Conference race until the final games sweeping regular season series with ETSU, Western Carolina and Samford along the way.
The Mocs have celebrated seven conference coach of the year honors but only one national. That came in 1977 when Ron Shumate was named National Coach of the Year following the march to the national title. The winners are announced April 1.