UTEP found the perfect fit for its newfound culture of ambition
"I want you to be excited about what we're doing and what our brand's gonna stand for," new UTEP head basketball coach Rodney Terry said in his introductory news conference Wednesday.
The 19th head coach of a program that'll be forever proud to claim an NCAA Tournament title and a Naismith Hall of Fame coach, Terry will guide a team onto the Haskins Center floor in 2018 with the same newfound culture of ambition that Jim Senter has brought to UTEP athletics.
In the same style Dana Dimel's arrival to UTEP has infused a new energy into football, Terry's expressed appreciation for the opportunity to lead the Miners is a direct extension of Senter's vision to "wake the sleeping giant".
"He (Senter) was really the deciding factor for myself in terms of wanting to team and partner up with a guy that is as passionate about trying to bring back a lot of goodwill to this community..." Terry said. "I was really, really excited with his vision and his enthusiasm for where he's at and what he's doing.
"UTEP is a special place, and it has great tradition, great history -- and an incredible, passionate fanbase. ...
"I want to build on that; I want to build on that tradition; I want to build on the history," Terry said. "I want to have a connection with this campus; I want to be connected to the faculty, the staff, the students, the alumni. ... Our success is going to be predicated on you guys being supportive of us."
While months away from leading the Miners to meaningful competition for the first time, Terry will do so having already won a game at the Haskins Center as a head coach.
“We (Fresno State) played here four years ago in the CBI Tournament,” Terry said. “For our program at that time, it was a huge, huge deal. …
“I came out early, before the game, because I wanted to look around -- and I kind of wanted to take it all in. And in the midst of being out there early and seeing all the passionate fans -- you got 5,000 fans already in the building -- and the passion in the building, the energy, the excitement in the building just made you look around and say: 'Wow, this is a place here that really is passionate and cares about basketball...' This is truly a dream for me to be here today. I've really admired this place from afar."
As Terry begins the process of striving for a Miner basketball renaissance, scheduling elite competition is an element of that process he knows is imperative.
"Even being far out there in Fresno, we came back and played a lot of teams in the Southwest," Terry said. "We came back in and played a lot of Big 12 schools, played some SEC schools.
"I think it's very important early in the year that you challenge yourself, you challenge your team, you get a gauge for what you are, you try to play a highly-competitive schedule -- one that's going to put you in position, hopefully, for postseason play.
"I'd love to be able to go out and play a competitive schedule against some of the so-called Big 12 guys -- not only on their home courts but also maybe entice them to come back here and play on our home court. We did that out west; we played everybody in the Pac-12. ...
"We'll definitely try to do that without naming names -- with the exception of Texas Tech: It's so close, I have to name those guys. But you could say the same with Arizona: Arizona's closeby as well.
"Obviously, anytime we play those guys, we play to win -- we're not just playing them to play them. So that's going to be our mindset."
Welcome to El Paso, coach.