The longtime general manager of D.C. Assault says he expects the Washington-based AAU basketball program to take “a PR [public relations] hit” after its co-founder was arrested on federal charges of drug trafficking, but he doesn’t believe it will jeopardize the organization’s future.
Damon Handon, who has been with D.C. Assault since it was founded in 1993, said that while Curtis Malone has remained as president, "he has not been involved in the day-to-day operation of the program for about five years." Despite the program cutting ties with Malone after his arrest, he is still considered by many to be the face of the organization and his picture is on its website.
Handon understands that the publicity surrounding Malone’s arrest Friday after a year-long DEA investigation could impact the relationship D.C. Assault has with Under Armour, but he said he is "hopeful" the Baltimore-based sports apparel giant will stay on as the program’s main sponsor.
In an interview Monday night, Handon declined to comment about Malone’s arrest or the terms of Under Armour’s contract with the AAU program.
But the continued success of D.C. Assault as one of the nation’s top AAU programs – one that has sent hundreds of players and many of its coaches to Division I college teams – could affect recruiting across the country.
Given the recent success Maryland has had attracting D.C. Assault’s top players, it could clog up the pipeline to College Park should there be a decline in talent coming out of the longtime AAU power.
D.C. Assault and Malone have been lightning rods for controversy for several years. Former Maryland coach Gary Williams was criticized for not being willing to deal with Malone and his program. There were also more than a few questions raised when one of Mark Turgeon’s first hires after succeeding Williams in May of 2011 was Kansas State assistnt Dalonte Hill, a former D.C. Assault coach.
While Turgeon played a major part in attracting two of D.C. Assault’s top players -- signing point guard Roddy Peters of Suitland and receiving an oral commitment from shooting guard Melo Trimble of Arlington, Va. -- having Hill on his staff certainly didn’t hurt. Another recent recruit, center Damonte Dodd of Centreville, played briefly for D.C. Assault after commiting to Maryland.
“Nobody else [in D.C. Assault] has been implicated in this situation [involving Malone]," Handon said, adding that “the organization is on stable ground ... we have good coaches, good parents and good kids.”
D.C. Assault was founded by Malone and Troy Weaver, now the assistant general manager of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
Handon said that IHoops, an organization started as a joint initiative of the NCAA and NBA, recently rated D.C. Assault as the top AAU program in the country based on the results of its teams. Handon said that D.C. Assault sends more than a dozen players each year on to play college basketball. Hill is the most high-profile Division I assistant coach with ties to the program.
Other Division I assistants who have coached with D.C. Assault include David Cox of Rutgers, Mike Pegues of Xavier, Renard Phillips of DePaul, Chris Cheeks of Delaware, Antwon Jackson of Cincinnati, Eric Skeeters of George Mason and Bruce Shingler of Towson. Two Divison I head coaches, Eddie Jordan of Rutgers and Todd Bozeman of Morgan State, also spent time working with D.C. Assault teams. Jordan coached Peters last summer before taking the Rutgers job.
Here is a statement released Monday night by D.C. Assault regarding Malone’s arrest:
The DC Assault Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball program has been informed of criminal allegations against our co-founder Curtis Malone. Although these allegations are completely unrelated to our organization, we are stunned.
Since 1993, Malone has helped to create one of the nation’s top AAU basketball programs, but today, he was charged with serious criminal offenses, for which we are very disappointed. No one in our program was involved in the allegations for which Malone was charged. The program will actively cooperate with authorities to determine the facts of this case.
Malone will no longer be involved with any operations pertaining to the organization. He previously stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the program as co-founder Damon Handon has primarily run the organization in recent years. Handon will continue to head the program, alongside fellow co-founder Michael Sumner.
The organization will continue its mission of preparing student-athletes in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for success on and off of the basketball court by providing them with the opportunity to develop their basketball talents while fostering sportsmanship, leadership and we thank our sponsors, coaches, parents, players, alumni, friends and families for their continued and unwavering support of our program and its future.