Rodney “Rod” Strickland (born July 11, 1966) is an American retired NBA player. Strickland played college basketball at DePaul University, where he was awarded All-American honors. He then enjoyed a long career in the NBA, playing from 1988 to 2005. Strickland is currently an assistant coach for the South Florida Bulls, under Orlando Antigua. He formerly served in an administrative role for the University of Kentucky basketball team under head coach John Calipari and was the director of basketball operations at the University of Memphis under Calipari. He is the godfather of current NBA player Kyrie Irving.
Strickland became a college star at DePaul University where he appeared in 87 games. As a junior, he was a First Team All-American after averaging 20.0 points and 7.8 assists. A 1987 and 1988 All-America pick, Strickland helped lead the Blue Demons to four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1985–88, including Sweet Sixteen showings in 1986 and 1987. The four-time Blue Demon letterwinner ranks among the program’s career leaders in scoring average (8th; 16.6 ppg), assists (3rd; 557) and steals (2nd; 204). He also averaged 3.4 rebounds while shooting 53.4% during his college career.
He was selected in the first round of the 1988 NBA Draft by his hometown New York Knicks where he backed up point guard Mark Jackson, the 1988 NBA Rookie of the Year. He was seen as sort of an odd choice by some observers since the Knicks had Jackson. Nevertheless, Jackson and Strickland shared time that season. Strickland played in all 82 games and averaged 8.9 points and 3.9 assists in 16.8 minutes per game where he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
Knowing that having both Jackson and Strickland play for the same position would not work, the Knicks dealt Strickland to the San Antonio Spurs for veteran Maurice Cheeks in the middle of the 1989-1990 season. Strickland flourished in San Antonio. The Spurs went 18-6 with him in the starting lineup. He led the club in assists 26 times and averaged 12.3 points and 11.2 assists in 10 playoff games.
Before the start of the 1992-93 season, Strickland signed as a free agent with the Portland Trail Blazers. In four seasons with the Blazers, Strickland averaged 17 ppg and 8.6 apg.
In a move that initially helped both franchises, Strickland and teammate Harvey Grant were traded to the Washington Bullets for Rasheed Wallace and Mitchell Butler in 1996. In his first season in Washington, Strickland averaged 17.2 ppg and 8.9 apg helping the Bullets make the playoffs in 1997 for the first time in 8 seasons.
In 1997-98, Strickland had the best season of his career as he averaged 17.8 ppg and a league leading 10.5 apg. During the year, Strickland also became only the 25th player in NBA history to record 10,000 points and 5,000 assists. Strickland was selected a Second Team All-Star. While his individual stats improved over the next few seasons for the Wizards, the team got worse, leading to a buyout of his contract.
Strickland would go on to spend time with the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, and the Houston Rockets to conclude his NBA career. He played in 1,094 games (740 starts) and scored over 14,000 points and dished out nearly 8,000 assists. He also ranked among the NBA’s top 10 in assists per game in 1991-92 (5th), 1993-94 (6th), 1994-95 (5th), 1995-96 (4th), 1996-97 (5th), 1997-98 (1st), and 1998-99 (2nd).
Strickland averaged 13.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 30.7 minutes of floor time per game.
Strickland was hired as an assistant coach at USF under former Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua. Prior to that, he served in an administrative role at the University of Kentucky under Coach John Calipari. Strickland started his coaching career as director of basketball operations at the University of Memphis, taking over the job held by former NBA player, Milt Wagner. In September 2008, Strickland was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame along with NBA stars Kenny Anderson and Sam Perkins, coach Pete Gillen and pioneers Lou Bender and Eddie Younger.
Career highlights and awards
All-NBA Second Team (1998)
NBA All-Rookie Second Team (1989)
NBA Assists leader (1998)
Third-team All-American – UPI (1988)
Career NBA statistics
Points 14,463 (13.2 ppg)
Assists 7,987 (7.3 apg)
Steals 1,616 (1.5 spg)