Out of college basketball coaching for three years but not unconscious, Cliff Ellis said he found himself sponging information while serving as a television analyst.
Ellis likened his hiring by Coastal Carolina University after the hiatus to Bobby Cremins' situation when he was hired by the College of Charleston last year.
"I've been to clinics for two years," Ellis said.
"I've been on sabbatical," he said. "I've stolen so much information by watching these teams play."
Ellis, 61, replaces Buzz Peterson, who left last month after two seasons to join college roommate Michael Jordan with the Charlotte Bobcats. Peterson will serve as director of player personnel.
Author, singer, gourmet cook and ostrich farmer, Ellis returns to coaching in the state where he spent 11 years at Clemson University (1984-94). In 2004, he was fired after 10 years at Auburn University.
"Did I miss it? Absolutely," he said, adding, "Cremins, I'm back; Krzyzkewski, I'm back; Gary Williams, I'm back."
Ellis said he has turned down other opportunities to return to coaching.
"The reason I'm here is about a vision," he said. "What I see here is a tremendous opportunity. I see the potential."
Ellis said he wants to make a difference.
"My passion for the game is one you'll see," he said. "I want to make a difference in young peoples' lives."
Pointing out that Coastal has had one winning season in 13 years, Ellis said, "That's fixing to change.
"I want people to realize nationally that Coastal Carolina is a new kid on the block in college basketball," he said.
Ellis has a 534-337 NCAA Division I record at Clemson, Auburn and South Alabama and 612-349 overall. He also coached at Cumberland University.
At Clemson, Ellis teams posted a 177-128 record. He guided the Tigers to the 1990 Atlantic Coast Conference title, the school's only conference basketball title, and sent several players to the NBA.
One of five finalists for the job, Ellis was selected over Coastal assistant Jamie Kachmarik, USC Upstate coach Eddie Payne, University of Florida assistant Lewis Preston and former Alabama coach David Hobbs.
Ellis said Kachmarik and the other members of Peterson's staff would be retained.
"We're going to build off what's been done," he said. "This late in the game, it would be foolish of me to come in and make a whole lot of wholesale changes.
"We know we're starting late, but we're going to fasten the seatbelt and go."
The Greenville News