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UA legend Jason Gardner returns to Arizona basketball as director of player relations

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NCAA Basketball: Indiana - Purdue at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats announced Thursday that former UA point guard Jason Gardner is returning to the program as the new director of player relations.

His job duties will be to “coordinate logistics for the men’s basketball team and assist in the development of student-athletes well-being.”

“We are excited to have Jason Gardner, an Arizona legend, back in Tucson and part of our program,” Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “He unquestionably left his mark on this program as a four-time All-American and national player of the year. I know he is excited to be back in Tucson and give back to his alma mater as a member of our staff.”

Gardner, who turned 40 in November, was a four-time All-American at Arizona from 1999 to 2003. He helped lead the Wildcats to the 2001 national championship game, was the 2003 National Player of the Year and is one of six former UA men’s basketball players to have his number (22) recognized in McKale Center.

Gardner currently ranks third in program history scoring (1,984), second in three-point field goals made (318), second in free throws made (516), third in free throw attempts (663), fourth in assists (622), third in steals (225), fourth in games played (136), first in games started (135), first in minutes played (4,825) and fifth in career wins (107).

After his UA career, Gardner played overseas in Israel, Slovenia, Belgium and Germany. The Indianapolis native began his coaching career in 2011 as an assistant at Loyola Chicago. He was there for two seasons before joining Josh Pastner’s staff at Memphis for a year.

Gardner was then named the head coach at IUPUI in 2014, and in five seasons he compiled a 64-93 record. He resigned after the 2018-19 season after being arrested for drunk driving.

Gardner returned to coaching a year later at his other alma mater—North Central High School in Indianapolis. He has expressed remorse about the way his IUPUI tenure ended.

“It was something that I didn’t shy away from. It was a mistake that I made, but at the same time, I’m past it,” Gardner said in an interview with the Indianapolis Star. “That was almost a year ago now and I’m ready to get back at it. I miss being on that sideline and being there for the kids. It was tough. You build your name up and make a mistake and you look back and wish you could take it back. But again, I’ve had great family support and some very good friends and coaches and mentors that have helped me, so there’s also a big positive that comes from going through it.”

Gardner joins assistant coach Jason Terry as the second former Arizona player on Lloyd’s staff, though Terry has been rumored to be a candidate for the Dallas Mavericks’ new coaching staff.

“First, I want to thank Dave Heeke and Tommy Lloyd for this incredible opportunity to return to an amazing place like the University of Arizona,” Gardner said in a statement. “This school and this program have a special place in my heart because it gave me so much during my time here as a student-athlete and beyond. There is nothing like game day in the McKale Center with the best fans in college basketball and I can’t wait to be back!”

Some info used from UA press release.