UT interim coach Rodney Terry has energized the Longhorns program since taking over on Dec. 12 and now has them in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
UT interim coach Rodney Terry has energized the Longhorns program since taking over on Dec. 12 and now has them in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. AP Photo.

If you want to best understand the impact University of Texas interim men’s basketball coach Rodney Terry is having on the Longhorns this season, don’t judge it just by the 21-7 record since he took over or the fact he has the program in its first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 since 2008.

Listen to his players wax poetic about the man they simply call RT.

“As far as RT goes, I think he embodies what we are and what we try to be every day; tough,” said UT senior forward Timmy Allen. “Someone who has been there before, never shakes at adversity, somebody who wakes up and tries to attack the day to be great. When I’ve got somebody like that in my corner I’ll do anything for them. And I’m just blessed, man.”

“He’s just a great leader,” said Longhorns senior guard Sir’Jabari Rice. “He’s like the definition of a leader. Everybody wants to be a leader on our team and he’s paving the way for that.

“Like Timmy said, we are a reflection of our coach. As much winning that we’ve been doing, the preparation is all RT and his coaching staff. He gets his coaching staff ready just as much as he gets us ready. He controls everything and everything just flows. He’s just a guy you want to be around.”

It hasn’t been easy, but Terry has made it look almost effortless since he stepped into the interim head coaching role Dec. 12 when head coach Chris Beard was initially suspended while facing a domestic violence charge and then was eventually fired.

UT interim coach Rodney Terry celebrating after a recent NCAA March Madness victory.
UT interim coach Rodney Terry celebrating after a recent NCAA March Madness victory. AP Photo.

The Longhorns’ season could have certainly gone left, but instead it has gone right. With Terry at the helm, the Longhorns are generating the most buzz they have since Kevin Durant was scoring buckets in Austin.

UT, the No.2 seed in the Midwest Region, is riding a six-game winning streak into Friday night’s Sweet 16 game against No.3 seed Xavier. Inside of those six wins so far are two big victories over defending national champion and eliminated No.1 seed Kansas. That run of six victories included defeating the Jayhawks for the Big 12 Tournament championship.

Terry now has the Longhorns two wins away from a trip to Houston to play in the Final Four.

But what is most surprising and disappointing is that with all that the Longhorns have accomplished under Terry’s leadership and calming presence, he is still coaching this deep into the Tournament with the interim coach title. UT athletic director Chris Del Conte has said Terry is definitely in the mix, but so are names like Kentucky’s John Calipari.

The overwhelming belief is Terry must win these next two games, which would include an Elite Eight matchup with No.1 seed University of Houston, in order to get a contract. Initially, the measuring stick was supposed to be the Sweet 16.

But it would seem the longtime UT assistant coach has already put in enough work to be the Longhorns permanent head coach.

If Texas hasn’t seen enough to make Terry an offer, it seems that Cal and Penn State have. The Nittany Lions were eliminated by the Longhorns in the second round of the Tournament last weekend.

To his credit, Terry has not addressed his contract situation in public. Instead he has been much more about his players and the task at hand.

UT interim coach Rodney Terry.
UT interim coach Rodney Terry. AP Photo.

“God is great. He’s great, you know” said Terry, who has served two stints as an assistant coach at UT while leading both Fresno State and UTEP in between. “And I’m so blessed to work with this group of guys every day. Some of these guys I’ve been working with ever since we’ve been here in terms of putting this team together. I’m just so proud and they’re just a lot of fun to be around every day. We get our work in, we have fun and we’ve had an incredible journey winning and winning really big.”

His players understand that verbally campaigning for their coach to get the head coaching job isn’t as important as continuing to win for him. The Longhorns hoisting up the championship trophy in Houston would guarantee Terry the job.

“I don’t think we have to say anything, honestly,” Rice said. “He’s in the locker room with us. All we gotta do is raise up RT and he should know, honestly.”

But as he has done this entire career, Terry has made this journey about his players and not about himself.

“I think everything is on these guys,” he said. “They’ve done an incredible

But then the UT player jumped in and summed it all up best.

“But give RT his credit,” Allen said.

“Why not RT?” Rice concluded.

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....