Pablo Juarez
Sports Editor
Chris Lin
Mercury Staff

Former point guard, member of program’s only Elite Eight squad returns to men’s basketball team after stints at Franklin, Schreiner

A UTD alumnus and former member of the men’s basketball team has decided to return to his roots and rejoin the three-time ASC championship winning program — this time with a whole new set of responsibilities.

On Sept. 23, the team announced the hiring of their new full-time assistant coach, Jared Fleming.

Fleming played at point guard for the Comets from 2006 to 2010. He was a member of the two teams that advanced to the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

“When I had the opportunity to come back and work for coach Butterfield, I jumped at it immediately,” Fleming said. “I think he’s a great coach, and playing for him really gave me a lot of appreciation for what he does here and how good of a program this is. This is home for me.”

Before returning to UTD, Fleming spent three years at Franklin College and one year at Schreiner University gaining some coaching experience.

Fleming said he had no intention of pursuing a coaching profession when he first enrolled in college. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in finance.

After using up all four years of his playing eligibility, he became the team’s graduate volunteer assistant coach in 2010. It wasn’t until then that he realized his calling.

“I really fell in love with the aspect of being on the sidelines, working with guys, talking through plays and strategizing,” he said. “After that year, when it came down to deciding what I was going to do with my life and having to find a real job, I just couldn’t walk away from basketball.”

Fleming was introduced to sports at an early age and grew up on the sidelines watching his father coach high school football and basketball. Once Fleming decided to follow the coaching career path, he said it became a natural transition to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Right after each game, his father’s number is the first one he dials.

“I go to him for all sorts of advice,” Fleming said. “He has a ton of experience. He’s definitely the biggest role model I have when it comes to coaching.”

Head coach Terry Butterfield said one of the biggest responsibilities Fleming will be in charge of as the assistant coach will be recruiting.

“At this level, you have to be able to recruit,” Butterfield said. “It’s all about the players and being able to attract quality (talent) to the program who, most importantly, are really good students. So with (Fleming) having been through that … he knows exactly the sort of kids we’re looking for and the kind of kids that would fit well in a campus like this.”

With Fleming having played for Butterfield for four years, it did not take long for them to get on the same page.

“He knows what my strengths and weaknesses are,” Butterfield said. “He knows my temperament. He knows how I like to do things. He knows what my expectations are. He knows how to roll his eyes and walk away sometimes when he has to. I think that’s very helpful rather than starting fresh with someone who doesn’t know me.”

After making sure he shares Butterfield’s vision, Fleming said building relationships with the individual players is the next step of the process in ensuring the team has a successful season.

“I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them,” he said. “We have a great group of guys. They’re receptive to coaching and they really get what we’re trying to do.”

Sophomore forward Reagan Keogh’s first interaction with Fleming was actually at a Texas Rangers baseball game. He said Fleming’s demeanor and familiarity with the team’s system is an advantage for both Fleming himself and for all of the players.

“He’s a pretty laid back guy,” Keogh said. “I think he brings a different type of coaching to the table. It’s kind of nice to have that balance between the head coach and the assistant coach and have a couple of different personalities that you can go to.”

Fleming said he’s still in a period of adjustment after taking the position so close to the beginning of the season. However, he said he feels the sky is the limit for a team that features a plethora of offensive weapons.

“We’ve had four games with four different leading scorers,” he said. “I think that’s rare. We have a good group of guys that are very balanced … and (are) sharing the ball really well. The first goal for us is to get better every week.”