The story on UTA men's basketball post-Scott Cross writes itself. It was a bad move.
The Mavs haven’t sniffed a conference title, nor a winning record since its alumnus-turned-head coach was fired after a...squints...21-13 record in 2017-18. He’s since had Troy men's basketball surpass his alma mater in terms of on-court success. He was 225-161 over 12 seasons.
UTA was put in a tough position following the 2020-21 season when Chris Ogden left for the Texas bench, he was the chosen name to help the program surpass what was deemed at the time to be the "limits" of Cross' guidance. After Ogden left, it made sense on paper to promote then-assistant Greg Young to the head position. He had served under both Cross and Ogden dating back to 2009 and could have provided much-needed stability. But the program’s fallen to a new low now ranking 253rd in Kenpom ratings and flooring one of the worst offenses in the nation.
Despite this, UTA is still one of the best mid-major jobs in Texas. College Park Center is a Grade-A arena on campus that's received fantastic support when the team is successful and the facilities are perhaps only bested in-state by Houston, North Texas and SMU at the Group of Five level. Even at its current state, UTA was able to pull in talented freshmen like Chendall Weaver from Mansfield Timberview – being in the Dallas-Fort Worth area helps. This should be a coveted job for many.
The Safe and Easy Outside Answer: Steve Lutz – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi head coach
During his first season in Corpus christi, Steve Lutz won a conference championship, played in the NCAA Tournament and has a shot to do that again in year two after the program had four consecutive seasons of sub-.500 finishes. He’s currently at a 64 percent win percentage through nearly two seasons. The Islanders play a frenetic defensive style that forces tons of turnovers and focuses on offensive rebounding. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s team has ranked 18th and 33rd in the nation in defensive turnover percentage over two seasons.
Lutz also proved to be one of the best recruiters in the nation at both Creighton and Purdue prior to his time in Corpus where he successfully recruited the Houston area. He’s a former assistant of former SFA and Texas State head coach Danny Kaspar. With how quickly he’s left a positive mark on the program, he’s due for a big-time step up soon.
The Rising Star Answer: Ulric Maligi – Kansas State assistant coach
One of Jerome Tang’s best hires was nabbing Ulric Maligi away from Texas for his bench in Manhattan. Maligi is proven to be one of the best up and coming recruiters in the country helping organize top classes at both Texas and Texas Tech, but Tang’s entrusted the rising assistant with more on-court responsibility, citing his mind for the game as reason for the early appointment.
Maligi had a prior stop in Arlington as an assistant for UTA during the 2006-07 season. He also has more stops in-state at Texas Tech, Texas A&M, SMU and SFA. If there’s a home run hire that isn’t a current head coach, this is it.
The Proven Pedigree Answer: Alvin Brooks III – Baylor co-associate head coach
Just looking at Grant McCasland at North Texas, Jerome Tang at Kansas State and Paul Mills at Oral Roberts, there’s something about Scott Drew’s bench that’s proven to be a successful stepping stone for successful head coaches. So, why not try to pick from that tree again?
Brooks, alongside John Jakus, was promoted to the vacant associate chair left by Tang this past off-season. He’s a Houston-native with nearly 20 years of coaching experience at multiple levels of college basketball. Brooks is a respected player developer and recruiter, being credited with the recruitment of five-star talents such as Keyonte George and Ja’Kobe Walter. His father is Alvin Brooks Jr. the current head coach at Lamar.
The Not-So-Easy, Wait-And-See Answer: Rodney Terry – University of Texas interim head coach
Of course, this is pending that Rodney Terry does not get the head job at Texas which at this point should be seen as a realistic possibility. But if he doesn't and the Mavericks want to make a splash hire, they could jump on the 54-year-old veteran with stops at Fresno State and UTEP on his resume before being named interim during this year. A native Texan, it’s possible that Terry would want to stay in-state if he doesn’t get the full-time gig and it’s hard to beat what UTA could potentially offer.
Terry's bucking a lot of doubters this year with how he's managed Texas following Chris Beard's dismissal but what was never in question were his abilities as a talent evaluator and roster builder. At UTA, the possibilities could be very high.
The Past Connections Answer: Gus Argenal – Arkansas assistant coach
UTA athletic director Jon Fagg comes from the University of Arkansas where he served as deputy athletics director. He was part of the administration that hired current Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman. Does that hint toward a possible examining of Musselman’s bench for his first major hire as AD?
Argenal’s in his second season at Arkansas with nearly 20 years of college coaching experience. The Razorbacks have hit the ground running since Musselman was hired from Nevada. Argenal previously served as an assistant for Cal State Fullerton where the Titans ranked as high as 11th in the nation during the 2020-21 season. He also served with Musselman at Nevada.
Another name to look at will be former NBA and current Razorback assistant Keith Smart who’s also in his second season in Fayetteville.