EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – With Rodney Terry officially announcing that he is leaving his post as UTEP’s men’s basketball coach on Tuesday to be an assistant at Texas with Chris Beard, the Miners’ attention has immediately turned to finding a new coach.
A proud program, UTEP has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1992, and they have not competed in March Madness since 2010. Under Terry, the Miners were 37-48 in three seasons, a far cry from what the university expected and hoped for when he arrived in 2018.
There are plenty of good candidates for the job of replacing Terry and, ideally, leading the Miners back to prominence.
“We will begin a national search for our next basketball coach,” said UTEP Athletic Director Jim Senter. “Plans to utilize a search firm have not been determined. In order to preserve the integrity of the search, we will not be making any additional comments until we have hired a new coach. We look forward to beginning a new chapter in our basketball program’s storied legacy.”
A source told KTSM that UTEP will make a big run at current Abilene Christian head coach Joe Golding as Terry’s replacement. Golding has led ACU to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, and the Wildcats even defeated Texas in the first round in 2021.
He was rumored to be a candidate for the openings at Oklahoma and Texas Tech, before those programs went in a different direction.
The Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2019, Golding has overseen ACU’s transition from NCAA Division II to Division I and in short order has had the Wildcats competing for conference titles. A Texas native, his ability to recruit the Lone Star State would prove vital to a potential return to the Big Dance for the Miners.
It is unclear if Golding would leave his alma mater for another mid-major program, but if UTEP could lure Golding away from ACU, it would be a home run hire.
Another big name UTEP is targeting: New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans. According to a KTSM source, UTEP brass has reached out to NMSU for permission to interview Jans for the opening, a common courtesy in NCAA sports.
Jans and Miners athletic director Jim Senter both worked at the University of Idaho from 2000 to 2001, and UTEP would probably be able to offer him something of a pay raise. Under contract through 2022-23 at NMSU, Jans has a base salary of $290,000, and a $216,000 retention bonus that he receives each year on Nov. 1, as long as he is still the Aggies’ head coach. NMSU also verbally agreed to raise his retention bonus on May 6, but that has yet to be finalized.
Additionally, Jans has various performance incentives that typically push him into the $550,000-$600,000 total salary range each year. UTEP was paying Terry a base salary of $725,000 and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Jans, or whoever gets hired, would be given a similar offer.
It is unclear if Jans would make the move from Las Cruces, but UTEP is at least giving it a shot, sources said.
Other possible candidates could include Baylor assistant coach Jerome Tang, South Alabama head coach Richie Riley, Cal Baptist head coach Rick Croy and former New Mexico State and UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies.
Tang has been an assistant for 18 years at Baylor with Scott Drew, and helped the Bears win the 2021 National Championship, the first in program history. Tang played a major role in building the Bears’ program from the ground up, and is by all accounts a good X’s and O’s coach. A former high school coach in Texas, Tang would also be able to use those ties in recruiting to help the Miners succeed at a high level.
Riley has been the head coach at South Alabama since the 2018-19 season. He has been a head coach since 2016 at both South Alabama and Nicholls State, going 89-71 in his career. The Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2018, Riley has had success at two places that are notoriously difficult to win. That experience could help him build a winner at UTEP.
Much like Golding, Croy has overseen Cal Baptist’s ascent from Division II to Division I and has been wildly successful since 2013, going 182-64 with the Lancers. CBU began the transition to DI in 2018 and Croy has had winning records in the WAC in each season, including a 21-win campaign in 2019-20.
Menzies took NMSU to five NCAA Tournaments from 2007 to 2016, but was unable to recreate that success in three seasons at UNLV. However, given the opportunity to return to the Borderland, he could be a big asset to UTEP. Menzies spent the 2019-20 season at Grand Canyon, but did not coach in 2020-21.
Don’t rule out UConn assistant Kimani Young, either. A star play at UTEP in the 1990s, Young has been the associate head coach under Dan Hurley since 2018 and also coaching with brand new New Mexico coach Richard Pitino at Minnesota. Young could be an option to return to El Paso to begin his head coaching career.
UTEP fans on social media have been clamoring for former Miner stars Tim Hardaway and Greg Foster to get a look, as well as former UTEP coaches Billy Gillispie and Tony Barbee to return, but those possibilities remain to be seen.
Hardaway told 600 ESPN El Paso earlier this year that he would love the chance to coach at UTEP, but he has never coached the college game. Foster is currently an assistant with the Indiana Pacers, but was an assistant coach at UTEP a few years ago under Tim Floyd. Foster was reportedly interviewed for the UTEP job the last time it was open in 2018, when the Miners ultimately hired Terry.
Barbee and Gillispie would likely be even longer shots for the job than Foster and Hardaway. Now at Tarleton State, Gillispie had success at the junior college level with Ranger College after problems in his personal life ruined his chances at success at Texas Tech. After leading the Miners to the 2004 NCAA Tournament, Gillispie left for Texas A&M, then went to Kentucky, before landing at Texas Tech in 2011-12.
Barbee was the last coach to take UTEP to the NCAA Tournament in 2010, and parlayed that into the head coaching job at Auburn. He has been an assistant coach at Kentucky since 2014.
Current UTEP assistant coaches Nick Matson and Kenton Paulino also cannot be ruled out as candidates, but the Miners could also be hellbent on moving on completely from the Rodney Terry era.
No matter who takes over as the next head coach at UTEP, the pressure will be on to rebuild the Miners, thought of nationally as a top-100 program, back into a perennial NCAA Tournament team.