It is official. Grant McCasland accepted an offer to become Texas Tech’s head coach. Tech posted this:
It is expected that Ross Hodge is promoted to head coach at UNT, keeping the program going under one of its primary contributors and builders. I heard from multiple people that there was a late bid to keep McCasland in town, but he had already made a deal with Tech.
For a few reasons, this was the perfect time to separate. McCasland had taken this program to previously unseen heights. Winning, once a treat around Denton, was now consistently on the menu. This year’s program won 31 games — a school record. North Texas was 6-1 in the NIT in two seasons including this year’s championship. All records. In his six years in charge, McCasland won two regular season titles, a C-USA tournament title, won an NCAA Tourney game, and won the NIT and CBI. The team is in transition, and Ross Hodge is ready for a head coaching job. Six years is a long time in one place, and leaving on a high like the NIT is smart.
There was a lot of winning. The enthusiasm and attendance never returned to late Johnny Jones-era NT, but a pandemic and the proliferation of smart phones and changing habits probably have more to do with that. Texas Tech represents and opportunity at the very highest level while staying in-state, and close to family. North Texas was always going to be vulnerable to a program like Tech or Baylor or the like. SMU made a run at him last year, and the money was enticing. McCasland stayed, coached his best team yet, and won a postseason tournament five years to the day from winning the CBI.
North Texas was reaching the limits of its budget and its ability to keep a guy as talented and competitive from testing himself elsewhere. While FAU is showing that national titles can be won from this level, the fact that both UNT and UAB were relegated to the NIT instead of getting a shot at the big show is testament to the fact that the margin for error is almost non-existent. McCasland had to chase and beg and plead for teams to play his squad. The Big 12 will guarantee quad one games for him by virtue of the league schedule. Texas Tech is a brand name that has been to the Final Four in the last half-decade. He has a new facility built for Chris Beard that will make his day-to-day job much easier and nicer. Oh, and he has more money.
North Texas is a ways away from investing at that level. The facilities are still being built to compete with the American, and the Big 12 is simply a league too far. The buyout is a modest $750K according to Brett Vito. This parting is about much more than simply money, though. North Texas helped McCasland get this job and opportunity, and McCasland helped North Texas reach a level of prestige and position to get back ten-fold.
He is the best basketball coach in North Texas history by nearly every measure except total wins. But the wins he brought NT were the best wins we’ve ever had.