AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Rodney Terry held Texas together in crisis. Then he took the Longhorns on their deepest NCAA Tournament run in 15 years.
His reward: Texas removed the “interim” tag from his title and made him the full-time head coach.
“I felt confident the whole time to be honest with you,” Terry said Tuesday at his news conference, where the former assistant was introduced as head coach. “I’d prepared my whole life for this opportunity.”
Not everyone was so calm about it. As the season wore on and Texas advanced deeper in the NCAA Tournament, the university’s wait-and-see approach became one of the biggest stories of the postseason as fans and players, past and present, wondered what more did he have to prove?
For some, March Madness was being mad at Texas for being slow on the decision.
Texas finally announced Monday — about 24 hours after the Longhorns’ season ended in the Elite Eight — that Terry was indeed the new head coach.
“You had a very long job interview,” Texas President Jay Hartzell said Tuesday. “And I would say you nailed it.”
Texas officials put Terry in charge when Chris Beard initially was suspended, then fired, midseason after a felony domestic violence arrest.
He’d been a Texas assistant for a decade under Rick Barnes before head-coaching stints at Fresno State and UTEP, before returning to the Longhorns as an assistant in 2021.
“My time and Fresno and UTEP prepared me for this opportunity,” Terry said. “No one knows this place better than me and how to be successful at an elite level (at Texas).”
Once in charge, Terry did just about everything anyone could ask. He guided an experienced, senior-laden team to a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference, the third-most wins in school history, a Big 12 Tournament championship and its first Elite Eight since 2008.
The university did not immediately release a copy of the contract under a public records request from The Associated Press. University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife said Terry got a five-year deal for $3 million per year.
“Coach Terry is just everything we want in a leader,” Eltife said. “We all want to win. But you also want someone who is a role model for our student. Class, integrity and character. And look at the way he handled himself after the incident we went through.”
Attending the news conference were Terry’s players from this season, as well as several former prominent Longhorns and NBA players, including LaMarcus Aldridge and T.J. Ford. Both played at Texas while Terry was an assistant.
“Everyone was worried what would happen” after Beard was fired, Aldridge said. “He bonded those guys together.”
Beard was arrested on Dec. 12 after his fiancée told police he strangled, bit and hit her during a confrontation at his home. She later said Beard didn’t choke her. Texas fired Beard on Jan. 5, calling him “unfit” to lead the program.
The district attorney dismissed the charge in February. Prosecutors said they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the fiancée did not want to go to trial.
Beard has since been hired at Mississippi.
Terry said Beard reached out to congratulate him on Monday, adding he wished Beard “nothing but success” at Ole Miss.
Terry credited the Longhorns players for not fracturing under the stress of having their head coach fired midseason.
“No team faced the challenge you guys faced this year,” Terry said.
Texas should be regular contenders for the Elite Eight and beyond, he said. Texas went to the Final Four in 2003 and advanced to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight four more times in his first stint as an assistant.
“We set a high bar for ourselves” this season, Terry said. “We want to get back to that Elite Eight game. Obviously we want a different outcome when we get to that game and have a chance to get to the Final Four.”