Phil Pressey explains why he's coming back to Mizzou
Since being named Mizzou's head coach in late March, Dennis Gates has spoken often of the program's history and trying to reconnect with it. On Friday, he took action to back up that talk. Gates announced that former Tiger point guard Phil Pressey was joining his staff as a graduate assistant.
Pressey, now 31, announced his retirement from professional basketball and his new path on social media Friday afternoon. He spoke with PowerMizzou.com on Saturday about why the time was right to make a change.
"Probably since I was 25 or 26, I knew I wanted to coach, I just didn’t know when," he said. "I wanted to play as long as I could play. But I'm 31 now, I have a wife and after we spoke about it and a good opportunity presented itself, we decided we wouldn’t mind getting into coaching and coming back home. My wife is very happy to be back in the States."
Pressey left Mizzou after his junior season as the school's career assist leader with 580 of them in 99 games. He ranks first and second on both the single-season and single-game assist list at Mizzou. The Tigers went 76-27 in his three seasons and played in three NCAA Tournaments. In the nine years since, Mizzou has had six losing seasons and made just two tournament appearances. Helping to restore the program to the heights it reached when he was here was a big motivator for Pressey returning.
"Mizzou basketball has been not where we’ve wanted it to be the last however many years," he said. "I could have gone many other places or I could have waited a couple more years until something that I liked came along."
But it was Missouri that was Pressey's goal. He and Gates have mutual acquaintances as basketball lifers and Pressey said he reached out to Gates to do anything he could to line up a chance to return to Columbia. He's walked the journey the current Tigers are about to begin.
"It seems like it’s forever ago; 12 years ago was my first year out here," he said. "But I can remember being in their shoes and being thirsty to be a pro, to get to the NBA. But you have to control what you can control and that's winning at the University of Missouri."
After going undrafted out of Mizzou, Pressey was picked up by the Boston Celtics. He played two seasons in Boston, then bounced between Philadelphia, Phoenix and the G-league in 2015-16. After a year with the Santa Cruz Warriors, he played in Spain, Turkey and Germany for the next five years. His last game was the first week in May. Now he's headed back to where that career began. His role? Pretty much the same as it was 12 years ago, just with a different man in charge.
"Whatever coach Gates asks of me," the Tigers' former point guard said. "I’ll be working with a lot of guards and giving them my insight on when I was here in Missouri. Just giving some knowledge on the game and being a college player and how to be a pro. Trying to teach them how to be grown men."
Pressey said he'll spend the next few weeks back and forth between Columbia and Dallas, where he and his wife currently have a house. But by the time school starts in August, he'll be back in town full time, hoping to help lead Mizzou hoops to success. Again.