Evans settling into, enjoying his new job at UNC Asheville

The last few months are basically a blur for R.J. Evans.

After moving for the fourth time in roughly five years, Evans dove head first into his duties as an assistant on recently-hired head coach Mike Morrell's basketball staff at UNC Asheville.

Demanding days turn into long, busy nights.

Evans started out as the only assistant coach until Morrell filled his openings. They regularly worked late and arrived early to the basketball office.

"We had six guys (on the roster) and we knew we had to hit the ground running and that's what we did," Evans said. "The first two weeks, I don't think we went to sleep before 2 a.m. and were back in the office at 7:30 a.m. every day. It was just me and coach Morrell running an entire Division I program.

" ... At some point, there was so much going on that you felt like you didn't have enough time in the day to get half the things on your to-do-list done."

His life is slightly less crazy now.

Evans, a Norwich Free Academy graduate, is settling into a new town and new job.

"It's going really well," Evans said by phone on Tuesday. "It's been fun. It's been a little over two months now. I'm still trying to get my feet set. I've got a place to live now. We just started summer school about a week ago and we have nine of our guys here."

Evans has become an expert at moving and adapting to his new surroundings.

He's gone from Worcester (Holy Cross) to Storrs (UConn), two schools where he played, to a year as an assistant coach at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., to serving as a graduate assistant at Texas for two years and then spending last season as an assistant at Louisville.

It was at Texas where Evans made a strong connection with Morrell, an assistant on Shaka Smart's staff.

So Evans wasn't surprised when Morrell called to offer him a job after being hired at UNC Asheville in April.

Three days later, Evans drove to his next destination.

"I couldn't be happier about where I'm at right now," Evans said. "I'm working for a guy that I know well and worked for two years in Texas. We have a good relationship. He gives me a lot of ownership and he trusts me, which is always important.

"... He's just a guy that I've looked up to. He's 35 years old and a Division I head coach. He taught me a lot at Texas. ... We're close but he's also going to hold me accountable and push me to be better because he knows my end goal is to be a head coach at one point as well. He wants the same for me."

Until Evans, who turned 28 last month, achieves his ultimate goal of running his own basketball program, he plans on learning as much as possible on a daily basis.

While Evans worked as an assistant at Louisville, he has more responsibilities at UNC Asheville. He's a  full-time recruiter, something that he enjoys. He also has more input overall.

"We haven't gotten all of our assignments yet," Evans said, "but I just know coach Morrell is going to lean on me a lot because of our relationship and how well we work together. The biggest thing that I've gotten to do, which I haven't done before, is recruiting. I've gotten a chance to get on the road, spread my wings and make connections and recruit some guys to Asheville."

Evans is hoping to help Asheville continue its winning tradition.

Asheville has won two straight Big South Conference regular-season titles and won 20 games in a program best three straight seasons. It played in the NIT last season.

He just might have found a place he can stay for awhile.

"The way college basketball is, you never know," Evans said. "Hopefully, I'll stay somewhere for a couple of years. I know my girlfriend will definitely be happy about that."

g.keefe@theday.com

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