Rodney Terry’s interview to be the head coach of Texas men’s basketball began on December 12, 2022, according to University of Texas leadership. But UT athletic director Chris Del Conte said Tuesday at the press conference introducing Terry as the 26th head coach of the Longhorns that he knew on December 13 that the Division I coaching veteran was the right man for the job, as did his superiors.
“(University of Texas board of regents) chairman (Kevin) Eltife goes, ‘gosh dang it Del Conte, you know that’s our guy?'” Del Conte said on Tuesday. “I go, ‘yeah, but we don’t make decisions until the end of the year.’ He goes, ‘you know he’s our guy?’ I go, ‘yes sir, we know he’s our guy.’ It was December 13th, right after the Rice game.”
Del Conte elected to let Terry hang on to the acting and then interim tag until the end of the season. That continued following Texas’ 87-81 overtime win over the Owls on December 12, into 2023, and amid growing national media consternation about Terry’s interim status through February and March.
“Can we just wait?” Del Conte said. “I want to wait and watch what he does.”
Terry then led Texas to a second-place finish in the Big 12, the program’s second Big 12 tournament title, and the Longhorns’ first Elite Eight appearance since 2008.
“We gave you the whistle, and we said ‘go earn this job. It belongs to you. Block out all the noise, block out everyone here that says he can’t do the job,'” Del Conte said. “You galvanized the nation. Your leadership was second to none.”
Said UT president Jay Hartzell, “we think about how we get to decisions as a leadership team, and I want to say thank you to Coach Terry for making this decision easy. You had a very long job interview, and I would say you nailed it.”
Added Eltife, “I cannot think of a better role model for our student athletes than Rodney Terry. What you’ve done this season and how you’ve moved this team forward is phenomenal.”
Del Conte explained the reason he waited to elevate Terry was in order to prove to those outside of the decision-making process that the man brought to Austin as Chris Beard’s associate head coach was the right choice to be his replacement.
Over the course of the remaining regular and postseason games, Terry arguably did just that. But not only did he convince stakeholders, he convinced the players under his tutelage.
“I needed each and every one of us to know he was the right man,” Del Conte said. “I needed our team to know he was the right man.”
Terry earned the respect of his players to the point where they stumped for him in the midst of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. That player respect then seeped into the fanbase, the recruiting class, and among Texas alumni.
In doing so, Terry earned his position as head coach of the Longhorns.
“The whistle was given to you on December 12th, but you took that whistle and you earned it,” Del Conte said. “A reckoning is coming because of you.”