This doesn’t come out of nowhere, as Wallace was an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons during the 2013-14 season immediately following his 16-year professional playing career. He recently served as a coaching consultant for the New York Knicks, where he played 21 games in 2012-13 in a comeback from two years of retirement before calling it quits for good. In particular, Wallace has been working with New York’s promising young center Mitchell Robinson. Knicks coach David Fizdale has called Sheed “one of the smartest basketball players I’ve ever been around.”
A brief history: The 1993 USA Today National Player of the Year at Simon Gratz High School, Wallace played two years in Chapel Hill for the late Dean Smith. He made seven starts as a freshman in 1993-94, but he was more of a bench player along with fellow freshman phenom Jerry Stackhouse. Wallace averaged 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds in 20.9 minutes per game (Nassir Little flash-forwards, anyone?) as the defending champion Heels finished second in the ACC, won the ACC tournament, and earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament before being upset by Boston College in the second round.
Wallace took quite a leap in his second season, averaging 16.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game to earn a second-team All-American selection. The first two figures trailed only Stackhouse on the team. The Heels made it all the way to the 1995 Final Four before falling to defending champion Arkansas in the Kingdome in Seattle.
Wallace made an impressive 63.5% of field-goal attempts across 69 games in his Carolina career.
Those two high-flying seasons were enough for the UNC duo to leap to the NBA, where Wallace was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1995 draft by the then-Washington Bullets – one spot, naturally, after the Philadelphia 76ers chose Stackhouse.
After just one season, the Bullets traded Wallace to Portland, where the 6-10, 225-pound fireball embarked upon one of the most entertaining tenures in NBA history. Wallace played 544 games over seven-and-a-half seasons for the Blazers, averaging 16.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.3 blocks under coaches Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Maurice Cheeks. He was an All-Star in 2000 as the Blazers made it to the Western Conference Finals, then again in 2001 even though his team didn’t get quite as far, then improved even more as a scorer, hitting a career-best 19.3 points per game in the 2001-02 season. He was traded to Atlanta in 2004, played a single game where he scored 20 points in 3 quarters, then was traded again to Detroit, where he’d help the Pistons win a surprise title over the then-dominant Los Angeles Lakers. Those Pistons, aided by Sheed’s 13.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per playoff game, became arguably just the second NBA champion in modern history without a true superstar on its roster (1979 Seattle SuperSonics). He played five more years for Detroit, helping them stay among the East’s best teams (including a legendary 7-game title defense series in 2005 that ultimately fell short to the San Antonio Spurs), before his career sputtered with brief stints in Boston and New York. He is undoubtedly one of the NBA’s most recognizable stars from the 2000’s for his dominant play on the inside, having finished with 4 All-Star selections and routinely finishing in the top 10 in the NBA in field-goal percentage, especially on the interior.
What he might have been most famous for, though, was his never-ending battle with anybody and everybody wearing referee stripes on a basketball court.
Sheed received 38 technical fouls in the 1999-2000 season and 40 in 2000-01, each total well above anything done before or since. His hot-headed nature boiled highest during his time in Portland, but once the Blazers decided they had had enough, Wallace certainly didn’t drop his act altogether in Detroit and his one-year stays in Boston and New York. He was ejected a total of 31 times in his career, more than twice as much as the next guy on the list.
For those looking at Sheed from the outside, these are the kinds of things that make some people question his coaching ability, seeing as a coach has to be able to stay even-keeled, demand referees’ respect, and stay on the floor. But anybody who’s followed him closesly at all knows that:
a) his reputation preceded him on the tail end of his career: he once got a tech for simply staring at an official, and another time was T’d up for yelling his unofficially-trademarked “Ball don’t lie!” at a missed free throw.
b) every non-official who has ever interacted with Wallace has had nothing but good things to say about his demeanor, value of relationships, and love for UNC. His involvement with UNC sports further proves this.
And for more proof: early in the 2004-05 season, Wallace was a notable non-belligerent during the ugly Pacers-Pistons brawl, otherwise known as the Malice at the Palace. He instead tried his best to play peacemaker. Despite his reputation, Wallace has repeatedly shown that he’s far from an aggressive personality. He just wants the game to be called fairly.
Wallace averaged 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 1,109 regular season games. He was steady with 13.5, 6.2, and 1.3 in 177 playoff outings. He was also a tremendously underrated defensive player, often guarding the biggest and baddest frontcourt players in the Western Conference without double-team help – not a widespread practice at the time against the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and others.
The school that Sheed is taking the reins at, Jordan High, finished the 2018-19 season with a 7-17 record, including a 1-9 mark in the Triangle-6. The four-time NBA All-Star figures to offer many life lessons to Falcons players as he returns to a familiar place. Congrats and best of luck, coach Sheed!