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‘I wanted to be a part of that’: Texas assistants talk about jumping on board with Beard

Hiring assistant coaches is art as much as skill.

Anybody can money whip an assistant into taking just any job, but does that coach have the right personality, skill set and experience to succeed in this new environment?

By all indications, new Texas coach Chris Beard had one simple philosophy when assembling his staff. He hired people that understand the importance of wearing the UT logo in the state of Texas. 

These are coaches who know the Longhorns' basketball program should be better than what it is. Texas hasn’t won a regular-season conference title since 2008 and hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2014.

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Former UTEP head coach Rodney Terry is 163-156 in 10 seasons as a head coach but has decided to return to Texas and be an assistant for new Longhorns coach Chris Beard. Terry was a former UT assistant under Rick Barnes.

Rodney Terry was an assistant at UT under Rick Barnes from 2002-11. He left a head coaching job at UTEP to come back as an assistant under Beard. Terry is 163-156 in 10 seasons as a head coach, including seven at Fresno State.

Jerrance Howard left Kansas after eight seasons to come to Austin. Ulric Maligi (pronounced YUR-ick MAL-uh-ghee) has spent his professional life coaching around the state and jumped at the chance to wear burnt orange.

“These opportunities don’t present themselves,” Terry said. “When (Beard) got named to coach here, man, what a home run hire. He’s going to blow it out of the water here in terms of taking this program and getting it to the highest levels and trying to get to Monday night.

“To have a chance to be a part of that, I wanted to be a part of that.”

Former Texas assistant Rodney Terry, right, coached at UT for nine seasons with Rick Barnes before going on to become a head coach. "He's (Chris Beard) going to blow it out of the water here in terms of taking this program and getting it to the highest levels and trying to get to Monday night."

Howard played for Bill Self at Illinois but started his coaching career at Texas A&M in 2004 under Billy Gillispie. He’s seen firsthand how basketball can thrive at a so-called football school. Howard was in College Station when Acie Law and Antoine Wright were giving the Horns fits.

“Opportunities have a lot to do with timing,” Howard said. “I think the timing was just right to step out on faith and have a new challenge. Here you have to roll your sleeves up and really get after it. We want to get Texas back on top, and when I say on top, that’s to win a national championship.”

Maligi graduated from Arlington Bowie and has coached at UT-Arlington, Stephen F. Austin, Houston, SMU, A&M and Texas Tech.

Originally from Charlotte, Maligi is eager for the NCAA recruiting dead period to end so he can start visiting homes wearing the UT logo. “I haven’t gone in there with that logo on my chest yet,” he said, “but it’s something that I’ve dreamed of for a long, long time.”

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Rumors are flying everywhere about how much these assistants will be paid. Perhaps a record-busting haul will be in order once the contracts are formally approved by the UT System Board of Regents. Nothing was submitted for the May meeting, however.

In the end, their cash haul doesn’t matter as much as the coaches’ ability to find and develop talent. That’s changing now with the NCAA transfer portal. Gone are the days when teams sign three or four players and cross their fingers that one or two work out. 

Beard’s coaches have been hyperactive in the portal simply because Texas needs to assemble a full roster. The only returning player who was fully committed on Beard’s first day was hustle machine Brock Cunningham. Guards Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres later decided to stay, but there’s still no word yet on big men Jericho Sims or Greg Brown.

Texas has received scholarship paperwork from transfers Timmy Allen (Utah), Christian Bishop (Creighton), Dylan Disu (Vanderbilt) and Devin Askew (Kentucky). 

“You obviously have to have a very high-level player to compete and win a championship in this league,” Terry said. “But you also need guys that are going to be program guys, guys that are going to identify and relate to roles that we need to carry out for us to be successful as well.”

Texas has also signed Plano John Paul II senior Jaylon Tyson, rated the nation’s 34th-best prospect. He was signed with Texas Tech but flipped when Beard came to UT. 

“I will say this, we’re not just Transfer U,” Maligi said. “(Beard has) always complemented those transfers with under-the-radar high school players. He knows how to put together a team.” 

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte introduces new men's basketball coach Chris Beard at his introductory press conference in April.

Texas’ previous head coach, Shaka Smart, initially brought several assistants from Virginia Commonwealth when he took over for Barnes in 2015. Collectively, the group had virtually no ties to the state of Texas. Smart went out and recruited players from Virginia, Missouri, Ohio and New York.

“We really wanted to try to establish ourselves in the state, in terms of recruiting,” Terry said. “We felt like we did that. We’re not going to get all the guys. It’s a big state, almost like another country.”

Howard told the story about recruiting Marcus Garrett to Kansas. The Dallas Skyline product grew up wanting to be a Longhorn. But he ultimately chose the Jayhawks and was the two-time Big 12 defensive player of the year. This new Texas staff knows you can’t lose those kinds of players to out-of-state schools, much less Big 12 rivals.

“This state’s big enough where everybody can eat,” Howard said. “But when you got this Longhorn brand, it means a little more.”

Said Maligi: “Recruiting against Texas, it’s one of those things where you try to get a kid done before the University of Texas figures it out. Now, we want to make sure we don’t let kids slip under the cracks.”

Beard’s three top assistants all said there is no multi-year plan. Beard’s plan is to win now, starting in November.

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Terry reminded reporters how good the Horns were under Barnes and athletic director DeLoss Dodds during the 2000s. That can happen again with Beard and AD Chris Del Conte. 

To hear Terry tell it, he couldn’t leave El Paso quick enough. 

“When you have that kind of leadership in place,” Terry said, “the sky’s the limit about how far you’re going to be able to go as an athletic program.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.