EL PASO, Texas -- It's official. UTEP Men's basketball is looking for their 21st coach in program history.
With Rodney Terry departing for an assistant role on Chris Beard's staff at the University of Texas, the Miners have a vacancy to lead the program for the first time in three years.
The UTEP basketball job is one of the more sought after in mid-major basketball. The Miners have tremendous history, given their 20th-century success under Don Haskins, play in a great facility in the Haskins Center, and have a fan base that is as passionate as you will find when the team wins.
Terry was the first coach in the post-Haskins era to fail to take the Miners to a postseason, so the goals for the next head man are very straight forward: Take the Miners to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
Who could UTEP Athletics Director Jim Senter target to next lead his program?
Joe Golding, Head Coach, Abilene Christian: Joe Golding should be the first name Senter calls about the open position. Fresh off an NCAA Tournament victory over 3-seed Texas, Golding was a rumored candidate for Texas Tech head coaching job that ultimately went to Red Raider assistant Mark Adams. Golding's teams play a distinct brand of pressure basketball. The Wildcats forced opponents into more turnovers per game (18.8) than other other team in America last season. Not to mention, Golding is a close friend of new Texas coach Chris Beard. But if Golding waited, would a Power Five team come calling? In the Lone Star State, Golding is a star on the rise.
Jerome Tang, Associate Head Coach, Baylor: Jerome Tang is a winner, having just captured a National Championship as Associate Head Coach at Baylor. Much has been made of Scott Drew's program renaissance with the Bears, but it could not have been done without Tang who has been there for 18 seasons. In hiring a former Baylor assistant, UTEP could go in the same direction as Conference USA-rival North Texas who hired Grant McCasland in 2017. It's worked out pretty well for the Mean Green, who have won the C-USA in back-to-back seasons including a win in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Greg Foster, Assistant Coach, Indiana Pacers: Tradition is one of the pillars that holds up UTEP basketball. If the Miners want their next candidate to exemplify as such, they may call former forward Greg Foster. Foster played for Don Haskins from 1988-1990. Foster currently sits on the bench as an assistant for the Indiana Pacers, and has served as a coach for the Phildephia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Atlanta Hawks. As player, Foster helped lead the Miners to two WAC titles alongside Tim Hardaway (who I'll get to in a second) and Antonio Davis. He played 13 season in the NBA and won an NBA Title in 2001 with the LA Lakers. Foster has been around plenty of NBA talent both as a player and a coach, which could be attractive to potential recruits, not to mention his familiarity with the UTEP program.
Tim Hardaway, former UTEP PG (1985-1989) Speaking of Hardaway, his name has come up as a candidate in large part on his own accord. In a February interview with ESPN 600 El Paso, Hardaway expressed an interest in coaching his alma mater telling local radio that "If an assistant spot (at UTEP) ever opens up, I'll be ready. I'm waiting." A Hardaway hire would certainly bring plenty of juice to the fan base locally and nationally. The man who coined the "UTEP Two-Step" won the Naismith Award in 1989 as the country's best player. He coached as an assistant with the Detroit Pistons in the NBA, but has never coached before in college. There have been plenty times where that alum-to-coach experiment has failed (Danny Manning at Wake Forest, Mark Price at Charlotte, Chris Mullin at St. John's). But with Juwan Howard's recent success at Michigan, and Indiana hiring NBA veteran coach Mike Woodson, maybe Senter gives Hardaway a call.
Kimani Young, Associate Head Coach, UCONN: Kimani Young is another UTEP alum who played for Don Haskins from 1994-1997, scoring 1,000 in his Miners career. A New York native, Young has experience coaching at college basketball's highest level. He currently serves as Associate Head Coach for the UCONN Huskies under Dan Hurley. Young currently works with the Huskies' perimeter players, which would be a welcome sign for a UTEP team that lacked a true point guard in the Rodney Terry era. Young would be another program-guy to fit the bill, but has been away from the Texas basketball scene for the most part since he graduated. Regardless, Young is a good recruiter who also spent time coaching with current New Mexico Coach Richard Pitino at both Minnesota & Florida International.
Chris Jans, Head Coach, New Mexico State: Would the Miners dare call their I-10 rival about the availability of their basketball coach? New Mexico State has seemed to outkick its coverage with Jans, who has led the Aggies to an NCAA Tournament berth in all but one season. UTEP may be able to offer Jans more annual money, but would it be enough for Jans to leave the school that gave him a second chance as a head coach? The wild card here is the recent WAC realignment. With the addition of talented basketball programs like Abilene Christian, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, and Lamar, the WAC has all of a sudden become a much more competitive conference. That bodes well for Aggies' fans who want to keep Jans in Las Cruces.
Orlando Antigua, Assistant Coach, Illinois: If UTEP wants to hire an outsider with no ties to the program or even the state, maybe they call current Illinois Fighting Illini assistant Orlando Antigua. Antigua has served as an assistant with Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh, with John Calipari at Kentucky, and now Brad Underwood at Illinois. Antigua on a national title with Kentucky in 2012, and was responsible for recruiting NBA players like Annthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nerlens Noel, and Willie Cauley-Stein. Antigua also in fluent in Spanish, having been born in the Dominican Republic. He is the first Hispanic player to ever play for the Harlem Globetrotters. Given El Paso's strong Hispanic influence, Antigua could be welcomed with open arms.
Wild Cards: Richie Riley (Head Coach, South Alabama), Mark Madsen (Utah Valley), Tony Barbee (Assistant, Kentucky, Former UTEP Head Coach) Travis DeCuire (Head Coach, Montana) Kenton Paulino (Assistant UTEP)