Rodney Terry, who was appointed the 19th head coach in UTEP men’s basketball history on Monday, was introduced to the public and press on Wednesday
Our very own Andres Acosta was there and brings you his view of Terry’s news conference in this Story in Many Pics + Video. Coach Terry’s comments are after the
Rodney Terry Opening Remarks
“Good afternoon. I’m so thankful to have you all here today. I’d like to say thank you to God for this opportunity. Without him, I wouldn’t be here with my strong faith, belief and religious values. I’d like to thank my family – my mother, my father, who is a 30-year head coach in high school basketball in the state of Texas as well. I’d like to thank the Fresno State players and administration for an incredible seven years — President Castro, our AD Steve Robertello, our athletic department and all my players. We’ve been up to something special there, and I’d like to personally thank each and every player for their dedication to our program. I love them like my own sons.
“I want to extend a special thanks to my mentors. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have a lot of great people that I got a chance to work with and be blessed to be in their presence over the course of my career. Harry Miller gave me my first opportunity in college coaching at Baylor University. He gave me a lot of responsibilities, was a tremendous man of integrity, and was also a man who helped me understand what it takes to run a successful program. Jerry Wainwright, who is on my current staff right now, I got a chance to work with Jerry out at UNC Wilmington. Jerry taught me just about everything that I know in terms of recruiting. Again, another man with a lot of integrity. We got a chance to build a successful program there. And I got a chance to later add him on my staff at Fresno, and he has been an unbelievable force there. Rick Barnes, who I talk to on a regular basis as well. He has had a chance to bring new energy to the Tennessee program. He was coach of the year in the SEC. But he’s an even better person than a coach, a guy who taught me a great amount about how you run a program, run it with integrity, do it the right way, how you communicate with your players and how you treat people as well. All great mentors for me, and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for those guys.
“I want to also thank Dr. Natalicio and Jim Senter for their tremendous leadership during this process. This university is truly in great hands with their vision, and the reason why I chose to be here today. They are unbelievable ambassadors for this university. UTEP is a special place. It has great tradition, great history and an incredibly passionate fanbase. It’s the only school in the state of Texas with a national championship. Let’s give it up! I’m proud of that. And I’m sure we’ll be even more proud of that at the end of March as well. But I want to build on that. I want to build on the tradition, I want to build on the history. I want to have a connection with this campus. I want to be connected to the faculty, the staff, the students and the alumni. I want to be accessible, I want to be visible. I obviously want to have you guys come and support us at a very high level. But I also want you to have a feel for myself, our players and our program. Our success is going to be predicated on you guys being very supportive of us. We’re going to be visible, we’re going to be out and hopefully gaining your trust because that’s what we’ll be working on every single day, to build a program that you’re going to be proud of on a daily basis.
“I’d also like to recognize the tremendous coaches here, starting with the legend Don Haskins. I had a chance as a kid to watch his teams play with unbelievable tenacity on defense, just the way his teams competed at a very high level. I have so much respect for him and what he was able to do here and I got to see it first-hand myself. I watched games on TV in the Haskins Center, and just a phenomenal coach. Billy Gillispie, who I got a chance to work with at Baylor University for a couple of years and also helped me grow as a young coach in the business. Every day, I remember going into the office and Billy getting on me saying ‘Rodney, we’re 100 yards behind everybody right now. You’ve got to roll your sleeves up. We’ve got to work every day man.’ He really instilled in me that this is a business and one that you can’t take lightly and every single day that you walk in, you’ve got to think like a head coach and act like a head coach. Billy Gillispie has an unbelievable work ethic. His teams always play extremely hard. You guys are familiar with that, and he had a great career here as well. Doc Sadler, he had some tough, hard-nosed teams. He’s a really good coach as well. Tony Barbee really built a program here and had a great amount of success and got to go to the NCAA Tournament. And I’d be remiss to not recognize the yeoman’s work that homegrown Tim Floyd did here. He worked extremely hard, he’s a coach I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and did special things here as well. But a lot of great coaches that I’m following in the footsteps of.
“We played here four years ago in the CBI Tournament, and for our program at that time, it was a huge deal. We were really trying to turn the corner, we were trying to get our guys to buy into postseason play. So it was critical for us. And we were excited about the opportunity. But I came out early before the game because I wanted to look around and take it all in. In the midst of being out there early and seeing the passionate fans – you’ve got 5,000 fans in the building already – and the passion in the building, the energy and excitement in the building, it just made you look around and say ‘Wow. This is a place that is passionate and cares about basketball and they’re here to support their team.’ And this is truly a dream for me to be here today. I have really admired this place from afar in terms of the passion. It’s a basketball community where basketball really means something. And there’s a lot of passion for you to be successful here.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to get a chance to work with the current team right now. It’s a very difficult time for them right now, a time of uncertainty. I have had the chance to reach out to many of those guys on the team right now and let them know that I’m excited about getting to know them, but more importantly them getting the chance to know me as well.
“I’d like to backtrack a little bit. As I’ve said, I’ve admired this place from afar. Glory Road the movie, I’ve seen it countless times. I can’t count the number of times I have watched that movie. I mentioned it to our team a few weeks ago. There are a lot of sleepless nights that you have as a coach, as your season is going along. I had one night about four in the morning where I couldn’t sleep, I had a thousand things running through my mind. And I still have a DVD player, and in that DVD player was Glory Road. So I turned it on and I was watching it and it’s always so inspirational to me. I was a huge fan of coach Haskins and the way he coached and the way his teams played. To just watch that movie and get a chance to see those guys, I can watch it over and over. Bobby Joe Hill, Willie Cager, David Lattin, Nevil Shed, 1966 was a special year and to win a national championship at that level at that time, still to this day is unbelievable. It’s an unbelievable feat, not only for this community to be proud of but the entire country to be proud of, what those guys did and what that team did and the way it brought everyone together. It was so inspirational and I hope at some point with my guys to take an appreciation for that, really try to buy into that type of team and hopefully have those kind of results at some point. I’m not saying we’re going to win a national championship because everything has to line up, but I’d love to be able to win a national championship here and do that as well.
“We’re going to try to hang our hats on two things every night. We’re going to hang our hats on our effort, our preparation, we’re going to try to be the hardest playing team on defense every night that we take the floor. I’d like to think that when you walk out of the Haskins Center, that you’re going to walk out of there whether we win, lose or draw, you walk out of there and say ‘Man, you know what, that team gave it all they had. They left it all on the floor. And they played with a passion for themselves, for their university, and for this community.’ And we did it at a very high level.
“I always said to my guys on a regular basis, and I challenge them and hold them accountable, to being a cut above. Being a cut above in the classroom. Being a cut above on the court and off the court, because I firmly believe if you have slippage off the court, it’s really hard for you to be good on the court and have a high level of success doing that. So I hold my guys to a very high standard in terms of the academic piece. We’re going to go into a lot of homes and we’re going to do a great job of selling our brand and our institution here. I’m never going to promise a parent that I’m going to put a kid in the NBA. There’s not one coach in America that can put a kid in the NBA. But I will promise them that I’m going to do my part, that they’re going to get an education that they’re going to feel proud about and they’re going to walk away with a degree. And in the process, they’re going to hopefully have developed as young men that are going to be able to go back to their communities and be great husbands, great fathers, great providers, and be givers back in their communities. But we’re going to have a very high standard and that’s something as I left Fresno State that I was very proud of. We got a chance to build a very special program there over seven years. But I was more proud of my guys getting their degrees and having a chance to better their lives and be unbelievable providers moving forward in the future.
“I’ll talk a little bit about some important things that are going to be the building blocks of trying to be successful here and bring back a high level of basketball to this great institution, that being recruiting. Recruiting is the life blood of every program. Every successful program has got to have players. You’ve got to get out and you’ve got to have guys. I always go by the old adage that we try to recruit really good kids that really want to be good players. But they’ve got to be good kids, good character so they can buy into the things that we’re trying to ask them to do at a very high level. So we’re going to try to recruit the most talented guy that we can who’s going to represent this university and this community the right way. We’re going to have an aggressive mindset in the recruiting aspect. We’re going to recruit Texas very aggressively. We always like to start inside and work our way out nationally. When you’re talking about trying to win a league, it’s important that you try to get guys that can play in the Big 12, guys that can play in conferences above you. In order for you to win that league you’ve got to have high-level players. And we’re going to try to do a great job, my staff and I, identifying really good character guys that can be really good players for us and to help take our program to another level here.
“From a basketball standpoint, we’re going to try to put a very exciting, fast-playing team on the floor. I know a lot of times people say ‘What’s your style of play, how are you going to play?’ In a perfect world, you have an idea of the way you want to play. But a lot of times you’ve got to come in and assess your talent level of what you have right now and what gives you the best chance to win right now. In a perfect world, we want to play extremely fast. We want to score early in transition. If we don’t have that, we want to be able to have a team that moves the ball well, shares the ball well but more importantly, plays a very exciting brand. We like to get up the floor defensively, some form of pressure up the floor, and then in the halfcourt we’re going to try to sit down and really guard and be a hard-nosed, physical playing defensive team. We know every night we’re going to be able to hang our hat on defense. We can’t control how well we shoot the ball or whether we’re going to shoot the ball extremely well on a given night. We’d like to think we’re going to make more than we miss, because we’re going to put a lot of time into practicing shooting the basketball. But every night, we’re going to hang our hat on defense. And we know at the end of the day if we can have that as a form of our identity, we’ll have a chance to win championships.
“So every night you come into the Haskins Center, you’re going to see a team that’s going to be out there leaving it all on the floor, diving for loose balls, taking charges, doing whatever it takes defensively to put ourselves in position to win the ballgame. Offensively we’re going to get out there and find a way, whether we need to play inside out, whether we need to attack the basket a little bit more and try to get to the foul line. We’re going to play an aggressive style of basketball and again, one that hopefully you’ll be excited about coming back to see and enjoy watching on a regular basis.
“But I’m excited about this opportunity, I’ve been blessed enough to be able to be in a similar situation at Fresno State where we went in and we had to build a program from ground zero. We didn’t take any shortcuts, we tried to do it the right way with a lot of integrity. As I alluded to earlier, we tried to go out and attract the best talented guys that were really good character kids that we knew could come in and represent the program the right way. And they did that for us. They bought in to what we were trying to do. And we had to nurture that culture every single day. It’s no different from what we’re planning to do here. I’m going to put a great staff together that’s going to come in and help us build this program step by step. I’d like to think that it can happen overnight. We’re going to try to do it as quick as we can. But we’re not going to take any shortcuts. We’re going to do it where we can have sustained success. I’d like to think that I left Fresno State much better than the way I found it. For the last four years, we’ve had a chance to compete for conference championships. We had teams that every year I felt like could win our league. But we built it the right way, we built it where every year we felt that we could be a contender for the conference championship. And that’s what we plan on doing here. We plan on doing it the right way, with a lot of integrity, with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and more importantly a lot of pride in who we are and who we’re representing. We want to make you guys proud. We want to make you come out and want to be supportive. Again, we welcome you to come out at times when we have open practices, come out and watch us practice. But more importantly, I want our guys to be great ambassadors in this community and carry themselves the right way.”
(On why he chose to come to UTEP)
“I want a homecourt. We played in a very competitive league in the Mountain West. We played in many great venues. We got a chance to build that program to a very high level. But there were nights where we had to create and bring energy to the building. I know the passion here, I know the passion when Miner Basketball is playing at a very high level, you’re able to have an unbelievable homecourt here. I often said to myself if I was in this position again and blessed to have an opportunity, to have a chance to move and go somewhere else, I want to go to where there’s a lot of passion for the basketball program and you have people who really want to get behind what you’re trying to do. We have that here at a very high level. You can go to a Big 12 school and talk about their venues and things of that nature there, but you’re not going to find a more passionate fan base than here and that’s the one thing that drew me in here, one that I have always admired from a distance, unbelievable basketball commitment here. And you get this going at a high level, wow. Watch out. But that’s the thing that really was the major attraction to me — the passion, the community, everybody trying to get behind what you’re trying to do at a very high level. And for me, this was the right time and the right place. I’m a Texas guy. I wanted to get back to my region, back to Texas, and this is the perfect place and perfect time and perfect opportunity for me.”
(On putting his staff together)
“We’ve got to hit the ground running. We’ve got five scholarships to fill. We’re going to be very selective in terms of who we choose to bring into our program. I do have a staff in mind already. I’d like to bring a lot of the guys that I have currently on my staff right now with me. I’ve got one of my current staff members that is involved with the job and would be interviewing for the job at Fresno State with the hope of keeping some continuity there and maintain what we were able to do there. But I’m hoping to have the majority of my staff coming with me here.”
(On recruiting to UTEP)
“First of all, we have a great sell. It’s based on a number of the things that I said earlier in terms of our fan base, the support here, our facilities here are second to none in everything that a recruit needs. We get a kid here on campus and we have a great sell for this community, for our campus here. I think if we get them here, we have as good of a chance as anybody to get him. I’m excited about recruiting a very high level guy here that’s going to have a chance to be successful both academically and from a basketball standpoint as well.”
(On speaking with the returning players)
“Those guys, they are kind of scattered right now all around. Some are back home, some are on vacation with their parents right now. But as I got a chance to speak to each guy, each guy was initially very excited about me reaching out and calling those guys and talking to them right now. Very positive conversations. I think guys are very excited about me, and I’m excited about meeting them and getting on the floor with them and finding out more about them as players and people as well. I think the general feeling was those guys were very excited about a new staff and what we’re going to try to do here moving forward.”
(On battling for postseason tournament berths in Conference USA)
“Every year we are going to have our goals, and they’re not going to change from day one. Our goal is going to be to win a conference championship. And from there, we’re going to want to try to advance in postseason play. I think there are a number of different things that you need to align to put yourself in that position as a program – scheduling and competing at a very high level over the course of the season. We’ve got some really good coaches in Conference USA. We’ve got some really good venues in our league, along with some really good players. You get one NCAA participant, you get two NIT participants. It’s really hard to get to the NIT. We had two NCAA participants in the Mountain West this year and we had one NIT. And last year we had three NIT’s and one NCAA. This year, we thought we were very warranted of an NIT bid as well in terms of the body of work that we did this year and the teams that we competed against as well. It’s very difficult a lot of times because at that point of the season, it’s out of your hands. All you have to go on is your resume in terms of your body of work and what you were able to do. But again, I never looked at it as a deterrent in terms of having to win your league to try to get to the NCAA Tournament. That’s what we all have goals and aspirations to do every year. And I think you build your team to be playing its best basketball at the right time to put yourself in position to be able to win the conference championship, to win the Conference USA Tournament as well, and hopefully have a chance for postseason play. But our league had three postseason teams, and I think Middle Tennessee did a good job with the scheduling piece in terms of who they were playing. I thought they honestly played well throughout the season. Some of it, again, is out of your control. I got a chance to watch Middle Tennessee play this year a couple of times. They passed the eye test in terms of looking like an NCAA Tournament team. I guarantee you, a lot of teams don’t want to play those guys on a neutral court somewhere, and that’s what it gets down to in the NCAA Tournament. But I think our league from top to bottom can be a multi-bid league. I said the same thing about the Mountain West Conference every year. I think we should be a multi-bid league.”
(On building a championship contender)
“I think you have to challenge yourself outside of your conference play to prepare yourself for conference play. I think you always, as you go into a situation, you want to really look and see who are the best teams in the league. Who do we want to mirror ourselves against. When we went into the Mountain West, San Diego State and New Mexico, those guys were the top dogs in our league. And who did we want to mirror ourselves to look more like and to put ourselves in position to win the championship? And we chose San Diego State. They were long, they were athletic, they could really guard defensively, and it took us about two years to get those kinds of guys but we reached a point to where we mirrored that same type of team. So you look at the top teams in the league, you try to mirror some of those and then you try to put yourself in position to be one of the top competitive teams.”
(On reviving student support at UTEP)
“They bring tremendous energy to the building. When you’re able to have the students involved and getting behind the team and supporting their fellow students, that makes a huge difference in your environment. There at Fresno State, myself I’m very visible, I’m very active and I said earlier I want to have a connection to our campus community. A lot of times prior to the season, I’ll go out and speak to just about every student group myself personally, and try to make a connection with those guys. And not only myself, I take a couple of players with me because these are the guys that we’re hoping to have goodwill for, that you’re going to feel good about coming out to support. And then we have those guys through campus a little as well. They’ve got to be very visible. In this day and time, you’ve got to be aggressive to get students to come out. There are so many things that they’ve got going, they’ve got school, some of them are working, they’re doing all sorts of different type things. But you’ve got to take a vested interest in them. We’re only going to be as successful as our community support and our student support. It’s a big part of who we are and what we’re going to be in terms of moving forward. We need you guys to help us be successful. But I will be very involved in speaking to every student group, trying to get them involved, we may even have a day where they come over and watch us practice and after practice they come down and get the chance to mingle with the players. Or maybe shoot some free throws with the players. Just kind of interact. But you’ve got to be proactive in this day and time in terms of reaching out and embracing and bringing them in. You can’t wait for them to come. The same thing with this community, I’ve got to get out, I’ve got to be very visible, I’ve got to gain your trust, I’ve got to gain your goodwill, I’ve got to want you to be excited about what we’re doing and what our brand is going to stand for. And I’d like to think that I’m still young enough to have the energy to do that. I’m getting ready to turn 50, but I have the energy to get out and do that. I want to be very personable and I want you to know that you have access to myself and I appreciate your support, just like I’m going to appreciate them coming to support us in our arena.”
(On Director of Athletics Jim Senter)
“We’ve got a superstar in Jim. Jim gets it. He’s got a lot of energy. We made a great connection in our interview process. He was really the deciding factor for myself in terms of wanting to team and partner up with a guy that is passionate about trying to bring back a lot of goodwill to this community in terms of the support. I’ve been starving for leadership and partnership in terms of the position that he’s in. I was really excited with his vision and his enthusiasm for where he’s at and what he’s doing. And not only that, the people he has worked with in the past that I’ve had a chance to work with spoke so very highly of him and the way he carries himself and the way he goes about business. He was a major reason why I decided to take this challenge on and be a part of what we’re doing here.”
(On which players he needs back for 2018-19)
“As I’ve had a chance to look at the roster and interact with some of the players, I don’t want to lose any guy. I think every guy is valuable. There’s not one guy that’s more valuable than the other guy. And that’s the way I’m going to treat my players. I’m big on not being a favoritism kind of guy. I think you’re only as strong as you’re so-called weakest guy or not the strongest guy. But I treat everybody the same. Whether you’re a walk-on or the star of my team, you’re the same guy and I expect the same things from yourself and I treat you the same. So we need everybody. I don’t need to lose anybody right now to be honest with you. With that thought in mind, I’m going to try to keep every single guy if I can.”
(On embracing former UTEP players)
“The thing I’ll say to our former players, you’re always going to be vested in what we’re doing. Everything that we’re doing, you’re going to be a part of. Your guys’ sweat, your blood and tears with this program, you’re vested in everything that we do and you’re going to be welcome at any time, whether it’s practice, whether it’s games, to interact with our staff and interact with our players. We want you around. You are very important to us. You are unbelievable ambassadors for our athletic program. But you guys are going to be welcome with open arms to come in and be a part of what we’re doing. We’re going to create an unbelievable family and you’re a part of our family.”
(On scheduling Texas teams)
“We’ve got Big 12 Texas Tech right across the way a little bit there. We’d like to try to do something with Chris Beard. I don’t know if Chris wants to do that, but we’ll try to reach out a little bit with Texas Tech. I would love to. Even being far out in Fresno, we came back and played a lot of teams in the Southwest. We came back in and played a lot of Big 12 schools. We played some SEC schools. But I think it’s very important early in the year that you challenge yourself, you challenge your team, you get a gauge for where you are, you try to play a highly competitive schedule, one that’s going to put you in position hopefully to make postseason play. But no, I’d love to be able to go out and play a competitive schedule against some of the Big 12 guys not only on their homecourts but maybe entice them to come back here and play on our homecourt. We did that our West. We played everybody in the Pac-12. We played Oregon the last three years. We got Oregon to come to our place this year. We had to go there twice. But we got them to our place and we had a very winnable game and a very competitive game. Those are the kinds of things that we’ll try to do here as well. We’ll try to not only go away and play, but we’ll try to entice them to come to our place as well and compete here in El Paso as well. We’ll definitely try to do that. Without naming names with the exception of Texas Tech so close I had to name those guys, but you could say the same with Arizona. Arizona is close by as well. But no, we’d like to play some of the Texas teams and obviously see where we stack up against those guys to get a good gauge of what we are. Obviously, any time we play those guys we play to win. We’re not just playing them to play them. So that’s going to be our mindset.”
(On the transfer epidemic in college basketball)
“It has definitely changed the landscape of college basketball for sure. This time of the year, I know for us at Fresno State over the last seven years, you have different phases of the year. You’re really in coach mode, and there are times you are in recruit mode. This time of the year for our staff, I challenge our staff every year to get back in recruit mode, but more important not so much recruiting other players, but we have to keep recruiting our players because other people are trying to recruit our players. We’ve got to go and re-recruit our guys again. We’ve got to have those guys feel good about what we’re doing, where we’re going and what we want to try to get better with in the future. So we spend a lot of time with our players. In this day and time with this generation it’s so important that you have great relationships with your players, not just in basketball but away from basketball. You have to have an unbelievable relationship with them. And that may be over a lunch, that may be over a dinner, that may be over several phone calls on a regular basis, but you’ve got to touch them every single day. That’s something that we’ve taken a lot of pride in. We haven’t lost a lot of guys in that regard because we try to re-recruit our guys, no differently from what we’re going to try to do here. We have ourselves benefitted at times at Fresno State with transfers. In the Mountain West, I always thought that you needed to try to stay older. We tried to have a blend of young players and older players. If you go in there with a lot of young players, boy it’s really tough. You’ve got to have a blend with some older players. The thing we try to do with the transfer market ourselves is we try to re-recruit guys that we maybe didn’t get the first time around. Maybe we initially started recruiting that kid earlier in his career and the next thing you know, he goes from a Mountain West caliber guy and all of a sudden he’s a Pac-12 guy and he doesn’t take our calls anymore. But we don’t ever blow any bridges up. We keep those bridges and those relationships open. Maybe he goes somewhere and he’s not as happy there and the next time around, he’s calling us and saying ‘Hey, can I come back and help you?’ But we’re fortunate enough to be able to take guys that we have had relationships with. We didn’t do much in the market of taking guys that we didn’t have relationships with.”