Let’s Speculate! Potential Texas head basketball coach candidates
Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.
Today’s program is Texas, coached by Chris Beard for the last one and a half seasons (fired following arrest for assault).
- Rodney Terry – Texas (acting) head coach
- Terry was a head coach for ten seasons – seven at Fresno State and three at UTEP – before returning to Texas in 2021 to be Beard’s associate head coach. The Angleton, TX-native had previously spent nine seasons with the Longhorns working under Rick Barnes and also coached at Baylor and several Texas high schools. He might be the clubhouse leader, as he technically has the job already and has been great at leading the team through a difficult time.
- Bruce Pearl – Auburn head coach
- Pearl has been a winner everywhere he’s gone, on his way to a fourth NCAA bid with Auburn. His 2019 team was the first in program history to reach the Final Four and he’s won two of the last five SEC titles. If he can win at Auburn, Tennessee, Milwaukee and Southern Indiana, it’s not a stretch to think he can catapult Texas into the stratosphere.
- Jerome Tang – Kansas State head coach
- Tang is only in his first year at Kansas State after nineteen seasons at Baylor, where he was front-row to the rebuild of the Bears’ program and developed into Scott Drew‘s second-in-command. Much like Arizona seems to have struck gold with Tommy Lloyd, the early returns at K-State have been great: the Wildcats are 13-1 (they were 14-17 last year) and will soon be in the Top 25 after scoring 116 points at the Moody Center in a win over UT. He might have qualms about leaving after just one season, but the Texas job might be an exception.
- Kelvin Sampson – Houston head coach
- The Cougars are one of the best teams in the country and are full steam ahead to a hometown Final Four, but the aspirations are even higher this season. Sampson’s squad reached the Final Four back in 2021 and has been to each of the last four NCAA Tournaments. We’re not sure that Sampson would leave, as Houston is about to join the Big 12 and he could be riding high after (perhaps) the program’s most memorable season since Phi Slama Jama.
- Nate Oats – Alabama head coach
- Oats had never coached in the South before he was hired at Alabama in 2019, but he has excelled in his 3+ years with the program. Two NCAA Tournaments, one Sweet Sixteen, a SEC Tournament title and the program’s first SEC regular title in nearly 20 years, and honestly this year’s team could be his best one yet. The Tide are 12-2 and ranked #7 in the country, right behind the Longhorns. He’s making $3M+ a year right now and would have to pay a hefty ($9M+) buyout if he left after this season (UT would likely need pick this tab up).
- Eric Musselman – Arkansas head coach
- The high-energy, high-intensity Musselman has worked all over the map, literally and figuratively, but he has really hit his stride as a college head coach over the last decade. Three NCAA Tournaments and three MWC titles in four years at Nevada led Arkansas to pull him down South back in 2019, and the Razorbacks are a Top 15 team coming off two-straight Elite Eights. For a program like Texas that is struggling for consistency in March, the Muss Bus might be the right call in 2023.
- Brad Underwood – Illinois head coach
- Underwood has been a winner everywhere he’s coached: three Southland titles in three years at SFA, 20 wins in one rebuilding year at OK State and now three (likely four) straight 20+ win seasons with the Illini. His team is floundering a bit at the moment but has plenty of talent to right the ship and finish strong, and honestly his overall body of work will cover for this season either way. The Kansas-native could be swayed to go back down to the Lone Star State and the Big 12 (soon the SEC) to coach the Longhorns.
- John Calipari – Kentucky head coach
- Calipari is attached to every big job, and while many believe “he won’t finish his career in Lexington,” he is now in year 14 with Kentucky and signed a lifetime contract back in 2019 after some heavy flirting with UCLA. But UK fans are restless, tired of Cal putting more focus on big name players and NBA contracts than on winning meaningful games in March. After last year’s NCAA embarrassment against St. Peter’s, this year’s team is struggling to find a footing despite bringing back NPOY Oscar Tshiebwe. Kentucky cannot fire Calipari, but he can leave on his own accord and get a fresh start (and plenty of cash) somewhere else. If it’s not in the NBA, it’s going to be at another big brand, deep-pocketed college program like Texas.
- Grant McCasland – North Texas head coach
- Not as a big a name, McCasland is a rising star in college basketball, who has won two Conference USA titles in the last three years up I-35 at North Texas. A native of Irving, TX, McCasland played at Baylor and has spent most of his career in his home state – prior gigs include include assisting James Dickey at Texas Tech and Scott Drew at Baylor, as well as being the head coach Midland College and D-II Midwestern State. It won’t be long before the 46-year-old to gets the call up to the highest level, and Texas would be smart to keep him squarely on the list.
- Joe Golding – UTEP head coach
- Less of a long shot candidate than he was back in 2021, Golding made a name for himself and his Abilene Christian program after upsetting 3-seed (and AP #9) Texas in the NCAA Tournament that March. He didn’t get the UT job, obviously, but did end up leaving his alma mater to take over at UTEP following Terry’s departure. Golding has done a tremendous job so far, winning 20 games in his first season and potentially heading for a similar record in year two. Another mid-major coach from Texas (Wichita Falls) who has spent the majority of his career coaching and recruiting in the state.
- Mike Rhoades – VCU head coach
- Rhoades’ name will come up with a lot of searches this spring, as he has had success at VCU and previously at Rice. The Rams won 28 games in 2019 to claim the Atlantic 10 title and went to the NCAA Tournament in both 2019 and 2021. Last year’s team won 22 games but had to settle for the NIT. However we have to ask: would Texas hire another head coach from VCU when Shaka Smart‘s tenure was so underwhelming?
- Royal Ivey – Brooklyn Nets assistant
- The only candidate on our list without any college head coaching experience, Ivey was a four-year starter for Rick Barnes at Texas and was key player on the 2003 Final Four team. After a ten-year NBA playing career, he became an assistant coach with the OKC Blue in the G-League. He moved up to join Billy Donovan‘s staff with the Thunder in 2016, spending two seasons there and two with the Knicks before arriving in Brooklyn in 2020. He has great name recognition in Austin and does have some head coaching experience, leading the South Sudan national team to the AfroBasket 2021 Quarterfinals.