Not to worry, the Texas Men’s Basketball program has capable, forward thinking, goal oriented, strong leaders and players highly focused on one goal, WINNING!
We spoke with three student-athletes Timmy Allen, Brock Cunningham, and Marcus Carr, then with Interim Head Coach, Rodney Terry, or ‘RT’ as the players refer to him, for the first time after their most recent road game against Oklahoma State where they reestablished their defensive dominance they are known for, and after the official news of Chris Beard’s termination as the head coach of the program.
We met in the usual spot; the interview room inside the Moody Center where media normally gathers for post game press conferences. There were about 20 or so local and national media present.
On the mind’s of fans and pundits across the United States was about who would be the most likely candidate as the next head coach, will the team survive, be contenders in March, or better, have a chance in the final four, and how are the players handling their new reality, and what about their new coach Rodney Terry (aka RT)?
The players were candid when fielding questions mostly around how they and the team have managed under their new reality.
Q: We asked the players how coach Terry has helped them become a better player and team over the past year and half?
Super senior forward Timmy Allen responded saying, “I think coach Terry has always done a good job. ( … ) Since last year just coaching and coaching the way he knows how to and inspiring us. He's always been someone I can lean on and go to for advice, or you know, basketball information. So, it's nothing new for us. He slid right in and done a great job, but he's always been a defensive minded coach. Coming into practice after the K-State game that's what he attacked and there's no surprise that we came and executed against Oklahoma State so, you know, coach Terry does a great job and there's no surprise we are doing what we are doing with him here.”
Q: When asked about the process he is using to navigate through the transition to a new coach, in his fifth season and currently working on his Masters in Advertising, Brock Cunningham confidently responded with, “For me the process hasn’t changed. Through Shaka Smart leaving the program to now Beard, back in high school I chose the University [of Texas] and my day-to-day has been the same. Just try to give practice and games everything I have.”
Q: Marcus Carr was asked about what is different without coach Beard being around. Carr’s response was powerful, “His presence! You know, playing for coach Beard [this] past year and a half almost, you just kind of get used to his presence, you know, his coaching style obviously, but at the same time you know our whole entire staff was an active staff. We didn't really have a staff where it was just coach Beard coaching and everybody else was in the background. So, it’s been a pretty comfortable transition.
We don't really have to get used to anything. You know all the coaches are still doing their jobs coaching the same way that they have. Obviously we're missing coach’s [Beard] presents but you know, like I said, as a team and as a coaching staff as well, our whole program, are expectations, and our standards are still the same.
So, we still come out every day looking to work as hard as we can. We still come out every game looking to win every single game. So, as far as mentally or anything like that, it hasn’t really changed.”
Coach Rodney Terry
Next up was Interim Head Coach Rodney Terry. A soft spoken man with a deep voice accented by a smooth genuine southern twang. Terry is a native of Angleton, Texas. Listening to questions, Terry leans in, arms folded on the table up close to the mic ready to respond, and exudes a sense of confidence wrapped in peace and humility. When he speaks his words are usually framed in light of how to best serve the student-athletes.
Coach Terry reiterated his love for his friend Chris Beard and said he talked with him last week for the first time.
Terry has been coaching since 1990 and has helped send many men to the NBA. Let this sink it, Terry was an assistant coach under Rick Barnes for nine years from 2002-11 at The University of Texas when the team, four times, made it to the Sweet 16, three times to the Elite Eights, and once to the Final Four.
Under coach Terry during those nine years two players were National Player of the Year winners (T.J. Ford 2003) and Kevin Durant (2007), 13 players were drafted, nine first-round selections. Durant was drafted in Round 1, 2nd pick overall.
Terry will send a few more players to the NBA from this team, no doubt.
Q: We asked coach Terry. “Coach, throughout your career you have coached and sent a bunch of players to the NBA. What is it like to be able to have such an influence on a player's career and likely you will send several more from this team?”
Terry starts nodding his head as he ponders those players and humbly says, “Well, I think it is always a good reference point you know.
Oftentimes I will refer back to guys that I had a chance to work with here and I think it resonates with our guys because they're sitting in the same jersey, and they are at the same moment of their life that that particular player was likewise. I believe that I use PJ Tucker today as a guy, that I reference today, in terms of he wasn't highly recruited, was the guy we were able to identify and came in and had an incredible career, but the thing that I made reference to with PJ was PJ was a guy every time he stepped on the floor he was the baddest dude on the court. He probably still thinks that same way. He's the baddest dude on the court and play with a chip on his shoulder. He still plays with that chip on his shoulder, and but he never forgot where he came from and how hard he had to work every single day.
I think when you are able to use those reference points with the guys that you had a chance to work with, in particular here, [The University of Texas] I think it really helps our guys understand.
You know, we have a term even defensive for us. We're trying to keep a guy on the side and we call it ‘Tucker’ and we show PJ Tucker doing it in the NBA. This is Tucker, he's ‘Tuckering’. He’s keeping it on the side. He’s not letting this guy get to the paint and stuff. So, I think it's great when you're able to be able to do that.
Lucky for me, I've had a chance to work with many great players that we had here and our guys are familiar with some of those guys. Some of them are still playing and some are not. Royal Ivey is one of those guys who was a tough hardnose defender for us here in this program. Dogus Belbay came back here this summer and was with our guys. There is no tougher guy playing in this program than Dogus Belbay. He’s the defensive player of the year from the point guard spot.
So, I think when you are able to reference those guys, point those guys out, and they are able to identify with those guys, and still communicate with those guys as well, It is a huge advantage for your program.”
That answers that ... the players have moved past their initial shock, immediately got back to work, and neither the players or staff have skipped a beat. It is a great test of continuity of leadership.
Texas plays TCU Jan. 11 at 8 P.M. in Austin, Texas at the Moody Center. #HookEm