College football writer
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte is used to making big, bold decisions.
While in the same position at TCU, he jumped in his car one day amid the chaos of conference realignment to drive and sit outside then-Longhorns AD Deloss Dodds’ office for several hours. The two eventually went out for a meal where Del Conte convinced Dodds that the Horned Frogs would be perfect for the Big 12 (an official invitation followed soon after).
In one of his first big acts after taking over in Austin, Del Conte showed Tom Herman the door as football coach after a top-20 finish and a bowl win to end the season, instal… fast-tracking Steve Sarkisian. A few months later, the athletic director was at the helm to help engineer the UT engineer’s shocking exit to the SEC.
However, after second-seeded Texas rolled past No. 10 Penn State 71-66 on Saturday evening, it might be time for Del Conte to make his boldest move yet and finally, and officially, shed that interim tag of the head coach. Rodney Terry’s title and make his tenure in the state capitol permanent.
“Texas is back where we need to be,” a jubilant but measured Terry said on the broadcast afterward, trying to speak loud enough to overcome the shouts of joy from all the players on the team who filled him with love
It was an emotional moment for everyone in burnt orange. Not just the result of a gutsy battle after blowing an eight-point halftime lead to fend off the Nittany Lions late, but because it rightly put the spotlight on the coach who has been the players’ rock for much of these turbulent last months. since former coach Chris Beard was fired following his arrest in early December in a domestic violence incident.
It was fitting that it was Terry who was ultimately front and center for Texas’ moment, celebrating the team’s first Sweet 16 trip in 15 years. A native of Angleton (outside of Houston, the site of this year’s Final Four) who played college ball down the road from the Moody Center in Division II St. Edwards, was one of Rick Barnes’ top assistants the last time UT made it. the second weekend, earning a reputation as an excellent recruiter by bringing Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin, Tristan Thompson and others to the 40 Acres.
“I’m used to the Sweet 16 in Texas, to be honest with you,” said Terry, who was also a head coach at Fresno State and UTEP. “I’m not bragging, but when I was here before, we were pretty much in the Sweet 16s.”
Now in his second stint with the program after 11 years, Terry is finally getting attention not just for who’s on the roster, but how they’re playing on the court, pulling all the right levers once again when Texas won its sixth straight. .
A case in point came with a timeout with 4:42 left, snapping a 10-0 Penn State run in which they bundled UT into four field goals and a handful of turnovers.
But the break turned out to be just what the Longhorns needed, leading to an immediate layup that sparked a run to regain a lead they never relinquished as Texas made all six shots at the final buzzer.
Perhaps Terry’s message at the meeting was simple: get it to Dylan Disu.
The senior from Pflugerville (via Vanderbilt) was easily the best player on the court, hitting a program-record 14 field goals in an NCAA Tournament game to surpass Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge and finish with 28 points . and 10 rebounds.
The effort helped push Texas to a remarkable 8-0 under its interim head coach in games decided by five points or less, a stat even more remarkable given that the last came in a game where it survived 11 errors followed from beyond the arc before. Sir’Jabari Rice finally hit home Texas’ only 3-pointer of the night with 8:32 to play.
Regardless of what the school brass ends up doing with Terry, his career with the Longhorns could end up being one of the best timed in recent memory for anyone with aspirations of landing one of the top jobs in the country . The team beat Kansas twice in a week before cutting down the nets in the Big 12 Tournament and will head straight back to Kansas City after two big wins in Des Moines, which coincided with seeing rival Texas A&M also suffer a early departure from the Big Dance. Thursday.
UT will now advance to play either a Pitt team that began its run in the top four as one of the final teams in the field or the same Xavier team that needed a little luck to escape Kennesaw State’s upset bid Friday. If Texas advanced from there, a trip to the Final Four would come against either a gutted Houston in the Elite Eight or an equally flawed Miami and Indiana.
A manageable path, to say the least, especially for a talented group to reach basketball’s ultimate prize not far from where Terry grew up.
If the Longhorns can end up making the trip down the 290 freeway to NRG Stadium, Texas could also draft the contract or risk a fan revolt.
In this case, Del Conte would happily have a magic hoop compensation run for what would previously have been described as unimaginative rent, in the same way that it would hurt the AD not to land a big fish after much speculation that high-profile candidates like them. Kentucky’s John Calipari was among those on the administration’s list.
After all, it doesn’t sound bold to hire a manager whose career record sits just above the .500 mark. But after what Terry has shown with a tough group of players this March, he might just be the right fit for a Texas program that seems ready to keep rolling and take the decision out of their hands.
Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets including NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.
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