Pick or pass: breaking down UTEP basketball head coach rumors
At least seven head coaches have been talked to for the head coaching job at UTEP, according to El Paso Times reporter Bill Knight.
After the Miners fell earlier this week to UTSA in the first round of the C-USA Tournament, 71-58, Athletic Director Jim Senter will likely part ways with interim head coach Phil Johnson and his staff within the next week to officially open up the head coaching search.
The names that Knight reported include five head coaches and two assistants: Joe Dooley, head coach at Florida Gulf Coast; Ray Harper, head coach at Jacksonville State; Steve Forbes, head coach at East Tennessee State; Randy Rahe, head coach at Weber State and a new one, Rodney Terry, head coach at Fresno State. In addition, former Miner Greg Foster, now an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Chris Ogden, an assistant coach at Texas Tech.
Forbes, who has built a decent program at East Tennessee State, where he is 76-29 overall, will likely stay with the program, according to Knight.
Below is a breakdown of each candidate and whether they should be picked or passed:
Joe Dooley - Florida Gulf Coast (114-57)
No, he wasn’t the head coach during Florida Gulf Coast’s illustrious run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2013, but through five seasons, Joe Dooley has comprised a noteworthy tenure with the program.
His time includes two trips to the NCAA Tournament and coached his team to a second-place finish this year in the Atlantic Sun Conference, going 23-11. He was also the head coach at East Carolina for four seasons, from 1995-99.
Recently, the Naples Daily News reported that FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh denied Dooley talking with Senter.
"I can't speak to everything in Joe's life, but I can speak to how ridiculous that one is," Kavanagh told Naples Daily News. "One, we've had no conversations with UTEP. Jim Senter, who's their AD is someone I've known from his days at The Citadel. I have tremendous respect for him and know he would reach out if that was the case, and he also would not speak to a coach that's in the midst of trying to win an automatic bid (to the NCAA tournament). So there's no truth to that whatsoever and it's extremely ridiculous.”
Pick or pass:
Pick, but it’s unlikely he will come here. Teams like East Carolina and even unnamed NBA teams have shown interest in Dooley.
The Naples Daily News reported that he makes around $350,000 at FGCU, so even with a sweet pay upgrade, he would probably choose East Carolina or an NBA squad over UTEP.
Moreover, his age at 52 makes it also probable that he could stick it out at FGCU instead of starting fresh with a program elsewhere.
Ray Harper - Jacksonville State (41-26)
Over the last two seasons Ray Harper has coached Jacksonville State to promising finishes in the Ohio Valley Conference and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
What makes Harper a realistic choice for the Miners is his time with Western Kentucky from 2012-16, where he boasted a 242-45 overall record and two trips to the NCAA Tournament. He resigned after the 2016 season following the permanent suspension of three of his players for an unknown reason.
Pick or pass:
Pick, but not the top choice. Harper has been waiting for two seasons to reenter the higher ranks of the mid-majors and going to UTEP would do just that. He’s a tournament-driven coach who has proven he can win conference titles.
One drawback, however, is Harper’s age at 56. He’s spent the majority of his life becoming one of the most storied coaches in Division II and NAIA basketball with Kentucky Wesleyan, winning four Tournament titles overall. But, he’s yet to have success in the NCAA Tournament, losing all three times in the first round that he’s been there.
Randy Rahe - Weber State (247-134)
Through 11 seasons, Weber State head coach has only had one losing season and prides his team on continuous winning. This season's team finished fourth in the surprisingly talented Big Sky Conference, going 12-22 and 19-7 overall.
Rahe has seen the NCAA Tournament three times during his coaching career, but the farthest his team has gotten was the Round of 32.
Pick or pass:
Pass. Although he was reportedly interviewed, Rahe hasn’t had the most impressive resume or the best accolades to show he can move up to this level. Also, Rahe is a former Colorado State assistant under Stew Morrill, so he might decide to take his coaching staff to the Rams and stay in the midwest, if given the chance.
Rodney Terry - Fresno State (126-107)
Reviving the program at Fresno State, head coach Rodney Terry has done a pretty decent job in the Mountain West through the past seven seasons. He’s taken the Bulldogs, who are 21-10 this season, to one NCAA Tournament, one NIT appearance and one CBI finals.
The news of him talking with the program is interesting since last season Terry signed an extension to keep him through 2021, according to Fresno State’s athletics website. Mountain West Wire reported that Terry currently makes close to $650,000 at Frenso State, which is about $50,000 more than former coach Tim Floyd made at UTEP.
Pick or pass:
Pass. It’s best for both sides that this deal doesn’t come to fruition. Terry wouldn’t want to leave a job where he’s currently built a noble program in a winnable conference, and go to a program like UTEP that is in dire need of resurrection.
It is interesting to note that Terry does not have a buyout clause in his contract, meaning that if he decided to go elsewhere, he would not owe Fresno State a dime. At 46, Terry might have the energy to start fresh at UTEP, but in terms of comfortability and salary, UTEP can’t offer him much more than what he has in California.
Greg Foster - Milwaukee Bucks, assistant coach
Spending the last four seasons as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, former UTEP standout basketball player Greg Foster has been thrown around as another potential candidate for the head coaching job.
Foster played for legendary head coach Don Haskins in the ‘80s, alongside some UTEP greats like Tim Hardaway and Antonio Davis. He played 13 seasons in the NBA and won a NBA title with the Lakers in 2001. After his career, Foster came back to El Paso to finish his degree and serve as an assistant coach under Tim Floyd for two seasons (2011-13). Before his time with Milwaukee, he spent the 2013-14 season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Pick or pass:
Pass. Miner fans won’t like this call, but there’s some simple reasons behind this.
Who comes to mind when you hear about a former hard-nosed UTEP player that bounced around teams professionally, coached a bit in college, had success in the pros as an assistant coach and then came back to his alma mater to serve as a head coach? Sean Kugler.
Foster feels like a Sean Kugler 2.0 choice. He’s never been a head coach anywhere, he’s never been tasked with recruiting players, and although he probably has great connections with the NBA, some of those talents don’t translate to the college level.
If UTEP wants Greg Foster, may as well keep Phil Johnson and company on staff and get back Tim Floyd to help out as a consultant. Foster may coach this program to follow his gritty style, he will get a big rise out of old-school, die-herd fans and would be a fantastic player’s coach, but similarly to Floyd, he would find trouble channelling wins and recruiting.
Chris Ogden - Texas Tech, associate head coach
From his playing days with the Texas Longhorns, to serving as an assistant for UT from 2008-15, to becoming the associate head coach for Texas Tech, it seems like Texas Tech associate head coach Chris Ogden has been waiting patiently for an opportunity as a head coach.
He’s been with the Red Raiders for two seasons, and is currently helping coach one of the program’s best seasons they’ve had in years, as Tech is currently ranked No. 14 in the nation. They have a 23-8 record, 17-1 record at home and could be seeing a top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament.
At just 37, Ogden has been mentored from two NCAA storied coaches in Rick Barnes and Chris Beard, and has been a prime recruiter for both programs.
Listen to these names that he recruited to Texas during his time: Avery Bradley of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2009; Cory Joseph of the Indiana Pacers in 2010; Tristan Thompson, NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers, in 2010; Myck Kabongo, who’s playing in France, in 2011; Cameron Ridley, a top Longhorn in 2012; and Myles Turner, one of the best players currently for the Pacers, in 2014.
Pick or pass:
Pick, without a doubt. Of all the names, Ogden sounds the best for obvious reasons. He’s a young, go-getting coach that’s able to recruit big-time players. He can help right away with a young Miners squad that is guard-heavy, which is something he specializes in.
If Ogden comes, though, he may use UTEP as a stepping stone for a major school. For the present time, winning is what the Miners need and Ogden knows exactly how to do that.