Texas faces tough decision on future of interim coach Rodney Terry after NCAA Tournament run | Opinion

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For more than a decade, no athletic department in the country has been easier to laugh at than Texas. The undeserved arrogance, the impossible-to-meet expectations, the massive coaching contracts that have gone up in flames — the Longhorns’ entire existence is pretty much a bingo card of schadenfreude for the rest of college sports.

And if athletics director Chris Del Conte decides not to make Rodney Terry the school's permanent coach after he stabilized a program under terrible circumstances, then won a Big 12 tournament title and reached the Elite Eight, the backlash will be intense.

It will look like a classic case of Texas being Texas, thinking it’s too good to hire an interim who had a 163-156 record as a head coach at Fresno State and Texas-El Paso and chasing after a shiny object just because they have more money than the Vatican.

That might turn out to be true. Texas’ track record of hiring coaches in football and men’s basketball has been pretty horrible for a long time.

But the idea that Texas owes this job to Terry because of what he did this season stepping in for Chris Beard is equally as foolish.

Texas coach Rodney Terry yells to his team during their game against Miami (Fla.) in the Midwest Regional championship game of the NCAA men's tournament at the T-Mobile Center.
Texas coach Rodney Terry yells to his team during their game against Miami (Fla.) in the Midwest Regional championship game of the NCAA men's tournament at the T-Mobile Center.

This is the bottom line: If Del Conte does not believe Terry is the person who can take Texas where it wants to go, then he shouldn’t hire him permanently. But if he envisions Terry leading a program that regularly plays in Elite Eights and Final Fours, then he might as well finalize the contract tomorrow.

Even as Texas surged to the finish line of the regular season, there was no public movement by the school toward giving Terry the job. Reading between the lines, the silence suggested at minimum that Terry needed to do something special with this team in the NCAA men’s tournament.

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Is the Elite Eight good enough? We’ll find out soon, given that Texas’ season ended Sunday in an 88-81 loss to Miami (Fla.).

Of course, it’s silly to think any coach should be evaluated on the results of a one-and-done tournament because you can always take one data point and see what you want to see.

If you think Terry’s the guy, it shouldn’t matter that the Longhorns blew a 13-point second half lead against Miami. If you don’t think he’s the guy, it shouldn’t have mattered if he got to a Final Four or won a national championship.

These are hard, important, expensive decisions for athletics administrators. If you get enough of them wrong, you’re going to be the next one out the door.

The reality of the situation is that when Beard was fired on Jan. 5, a little less than a month after he was arrested on domestic violence charges that were later dismissed when his fiancée recanted some of her statements to police, Terry was supposed to simply be a caretaker for the rest of the season.

As any competent athletics director would do, Del Conte surely spent the next two-plus months gauging interest and vetting candidates for what is widely considered one of the best jobs in college basketball.

But as that was happening, Texas’ players clearly rallied around Terry and did some special things, including making the program's first Elite Eight in 15 years.

It’s easy for any of us to say that Terry deserves the job based on what happened this season. But Del Conte’s responsibility is to determine whether that translates to sustained success. It can’t be easy to balance that evaluation with the public pressure around this decision, and frankly, the optics of not hiring a Black coach who everyone in the sport likes and respects and who won big for Texas under tough circumstances.

Terry has a lot of people rooting for him, and they will rightfully call foul if he doesn’t get the job.

But in the end, Texas made Del Conte one of the highest-paid athletics directors in the country to make tough decisions. He knows the program, and by now he knows Terry. If he believes he can hire a better coach, it’s hard to criticize that.

As long as he gets it right.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas decision on Rodney Terry isn't easy after NCAA Tournament run