EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The UTEP men’s basketball program’s national perception took a hit when Rodney Terry decided to step down as head coach to return to Texas as an assistant under Chris Beard. Regardless of school, conference or prestige, it’s not a good look for your program to have the head coach bolt to become an assistant elsewhere. Plain and simple.
Even more so, the Miners haven’t had consistent success on the floor in a really, really long time. UTEP hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010 and their last March Madness win was in 1992 when they made a run to the Sweet 16.
In three years under Terry, UTEP went 37-48 and just 19-33 in Conference USA play. The program has become largely irrelevant in the national landscape outside of the prominence Texas Western’s 1966 national championship continues to bring the program (as it should), even more so after Baylor’s win in Monday’s national championship game to join the Miners as the only two Texas programs to win a Division I men’s basketball national title.
Despite all the missteps and years of fan frustration that seemed to boil over with Terry at the helm, Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Sweeney believes the UTEP job is still a good job and one that will continue to pull a lot of interest from coaches across the country.
“UTEP has a lot of advantages. They have resources — legit resources,” said Sweeney. “You can recruit there and really get players. You can sell history and you have a really good fan base. There’s a lot to sell, certainly enough to pull a sitting head coach. That’s usually my bar of: is it a good mid-major job? Can you pull a sitting head coach? UTEP can do that.”
That’s not to say UTEP doesn’t have its disadvantages. Playing in a one-bid league like Conference USA has been a struggle to provide postseason success, but the Miners have a chance to hire a really good coach and director of athletics Jim Senter has to get this hire right. It might be cliché, but after everything Terry just put the program through by bolting to Texas, this hire feels like a potential turning point — good or bad.
While this search is in its infancy stages, KTSM 9 Sports has confirmed there is mutual interest between UTEP and Abilene Christian head coach Joe Golding. Sources say Senter has also reached out to New Mexico State director of athletics, Mario Moccia, to get permission to interview Aggies head coach Chris Jans. Sources also confirm to KTSM that former New Mexico State and UNLV head coach, Marvin Menzies, is also in the mix for the job.
Following Terry’s departure, Senter released a statement that said, “plans to utilize a search firm have not been determined.” It would appear Senter plans to keep this coaching search tight-lipped, which means you can’t count out a wild card or two as we begin to enter the interview phase in the coming days.