Texas

Rodney Terry auditions regularly as Texas interim coach

Every Texas Longhorns game feels like an audition for interim coach Rodney Terry.

At some point, the school will have to decide if he deserves a recall.

What would that take? A Big 12 Championship? A deep run into the NCAA tournament? Texas has not won the league’s regular-season title since 2008, nor advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte will not discuss finding a permanent replacement for Chris Beard, who was fired Jan. 5, or whether Terry is a top candidate for the position.

But the AD can see what everyone else can: Texas (17-3, 6-2 Big 12) is at No. 10, sharing first place in the Big 12 and hasn’t missed a step since Beard’s Dec. 11 for was suspended for the first time. 12 and then released after his arrest on domestic violence charges.

“I’m really proud of what they do,” Del Conte said of the team this week. “I couldn’t be happier for him and our entire team.”

Terry, who was a head coach at Fresno State and UTEP before joining Beard’s Texas staff, also deflects questions about his future at Burnt Orange and whether he thinks about it every time he’s on the court.

“The thing I can control at the moment is working with these guys on a daily basis. I love the team we have. They believe in what we’re trying to achieve,” Terry said. “I’m a strong believer in living where your feet are and living in the moment. Enjoy this season, this journey. Tomorrow is not promised to us.”

AMES, IA – JANUARY 17: Head coach Rodney Terry of the Texas Longhorns coaches off the bench during the first half of play at the Hilton Coliseum on January 17, 2023 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones defeated the Texas Longhorns 78-67. (Photo by David K

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Terry inherited a team with years of experience and maturity. Star guard and top scorer Marcus Carr is a sixth-year graduate student. Forward Timmy Allen, the second-best scorer, is five years older. Both are 23 years old.

Sixth Man Sir’Jabari Rice is a New Mexico grad and the Longhorns’ most popular player, busting games with his 86% free-throw shooting in the final minutes — third in the Big 12.

Texas players have described the confusion surrounding Beard’s arrest, suspension and final release. Carr said the older players quickly brought the focus to the basketball court rather than the courtroom.

In turn, Texas is 10-2 under Terry, with their only losses coming to No. 5 Kansas State and No. 12 Iowa State, the two teams at the top of the Big 12 with the Longhorns.

Terry was no stranger to Texas, having served on the staff of Rick Barnes’ Longhorns from 2002-2011.

Terry and Barnes will reunite on Saturday when the Longhorns play No. 4 in Tennessee in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. While in Texas together, the Longhorns experienced their greatest decade in program history: two National Players of the Year in TJ Ford and Kevin Durant, and making the Final Four in 2003 and the Elite Eight in 2006 and 2008.

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Terry said Barnes called him after he led Texas to an overtime win over Rice that came just hours after Beard was first suspended.

“He said to me, ‘Be ready to lead this team for the rest of the season and you’re more than ready for this opportunity… Go out and enjoy the ride, try to take these guys as far as you can take them’ said Terry.

Beard was hired to kickstart a program that had stalled in Barnes’s final years and failed to take off under Shaka Smart. It worked too. Last season, Texas clinched its first NCAA tournament win since 2014. Beard also urged people to come to Texas’ new arena, the Moody Center, and engaged with fans during his “fireside chats.” .

Then came the arrest and the charges and Terry’s takeover.

Terry recently stepped into the spotlight a bit by appearing on a weekly radio show and television show on the Longhorn Network. Del Conte said that placing Terry in those slots satisfies the obligations of the network contract.

But they also allow Terry to build his own voice as leader of the Longhorns program, one which he emphasizes is a player-led team.

“You put your players first,” Terry said. “I don’t have to be the face of the program. My face isn’t pretty enough.”

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