On May 19, Mike Wells prepared for his latest move in a career filled with them.
It is the life of a basketball coach. Wells joined the staff at South Florida in May of last year, only to learn he was out of a job in March after Bulls coach Stan Heath was fired. He was hired by the University of Toledo in April.
“See ya Tampa,” Wells posted on Twitter that day in May. “It's been real ... REAL SHORT!!!”
By comparison to his stay in the Glass City, it was a veritable blue moon.
Wells is rerouting the moving trucks from Toledo to Utah, where he has accepted a position on the coaching staff of the Jazz. The Rockets’ new and now former assistant gave UT coach Tod Kowalczyk the news just days before he and his family planned to close on a home in Ottawa Hills.
“I think the world of Tod and that situation at Toledo,” Wells said Tuesday. “They have a fantastic team, and he does a really good job. I was not looking around. We were in the process of buying a house, and all of the sudden this came up. It was a tough one for me.”
Former Owens Community College star and current St. Bonaventure assistant Jeff Massey will replace Wells on the staff, The Blade has learned.
The change of plans continued a cyclone of recent staff changes at UT. The Rockets have lost five assistants since the start of the 2012-2013 basketball season, including three this offseason who had been at Toledo for less than two years between them. Yet this move, at least, came with no questions.
Wells is familiar with first-year Jazz coach Quin Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsey, and has 17 years of NBA experience. Before joining the staff at George Mason in 2011, Wells, 43, filled roles ranging from video coordinator to full-time assistant for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Washington Wizards.
"I couldn't be happier for Mike Wells," Kowalczyk said. "He's one of the best guys I've been around. He had a chance to return to the NBA, and I'm really happy for him."
Though Wells cracked he has “some people not very happy with me” — a nod to his family in his native Mount Vernon, Ohio — Kowalczyk is not one of them.
“I really didn't know what he would think, but he just understood it was a special situation,” Wells said. “He could not have been any better to our family since we got there.”
Massey is the second new Rockets assistant with area ties, following the hire of former Bowling Green State University great Anthony Stacey.
A native of Elkhart, Ind., Massey remains Owens’ all-time leading scorer. He led the Express to back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national championships in 1992 and 1993 before starring at Xavier. Massey spent the past seven seasons at St. Bonaventure.
He joins another new-look Toledo staff. In addition to Wells’ departure, Jason Kemp and Jordan Mincy left after their first seasons at UT for assistant openings at Ohio University and Louisiana Tech, respectively, while director of operations Michael Bennett left for a job outside of coaching.
Asked if he is concerned about the turnover, Kowalczyk replied, “I feel very good about the staff changes.”
Toledo went 27-7 and captured a share of the Mid-American Conference regular-season title last season.