North Texas to Keep Benford for Final Year of Contract. Foolish or Wise?

North Texas Athletic Director Rick Villarreal confirmed to our good man Brett Vito yesterday that Tony Benford will be the Mens Basketball Coach for the 2016-17 season. In the article Villarreal stated the following reasons for Benford staying on to coach the Mean Green:

“I met with the president and the decision was made that he has a five-year contract and that we will honor that five-year contract,” Villarreal said. “There are some people out there who doubt coach Benford, but we took into consideration the talent of the kids that he has coming back. We played every game with a starting five that had never played a game together before, have more than 90 percent of our scoring returning and are adding Keith Frazier.”

Lets examine those statements a little further. First thing that stands out to me is that Villarreal had to meet with the president about this situation. I know the President has to want a better basketball program. He couldn’t be happy with the attendance and product on the court the past 2 years. It still really inst clear what the relationship is between the President and AD. Is there some sort of power struggle going on between the 2? Word on the street is that several boosters may have voiced their concerns to the President about Benford returning to coach next year. Any way you spin it the relationship between Villarreal and President Smatresk is looking even muddier.

The next thing that stands out to me and, well actually infuriates me is how Villarreal stated that North Texas played with a starting five that had never played together. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a big believer in continuity, and building teams with 4 year players for Mid Majors. The Valpo’s, Northern Iowa’s, Wichita St’s, and Stephen F. Austin’s of the NCAA are built around 4 year guys who breakout in their JR and SR years. For Wichita St Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker have been around for awhile making a name. Thomas Walkup for SFA was a good player who got better each year at SFA, and had a tremendous tournament this year. Wes Washpun really had breakout seasons in his JR and SR years. Benford built his roster the opposite way of how other successful mid majors do it. Benford is directly responsible for putting a team on the floor that hadnt played together. Ever since his arrival the North Texas basketball roster has been in constant flux. There has been little to no consistency from year to year. It should not have been an excuse to keep Benford. No, in my opinion it was another reason for his dismissal.

Finally just because North Texas has a good amount of their players returning it doesnt mean that success should be guaranteed. I felt that Villarreal was stating that North Texas has enough talent to win on talent alone. That’s a bold statement about a team that just finished 9th in CUSA during a down year. Basically Villarreal and Benford believe that none of the CUSA teams ahead of them or behind them are going to improve. They must believe that no of those teams are returning any talent. Newsflash boys those other CUSA basketball programs arent sitting on their hands, they are getting better. Here is a little breakdown of teams I think are in a great position to be better than North Texas next year.

Middle Tennessee

Major Contributors Returning -1

Significant Contributors Returning – 3

3 out 5 Top Scorers

3 Starters

 

UAB

Major Contributors Returning  -1

Significant Contributors Returning  – 2

4 out 5 Top Scorers

4 Starters

 

ODU

Major Contributors Returning  -0

Significant Contributors Returning  – 1

1 out 3 Top Scorers

3 Starters

2 3* Recruits Signed LOI

2 2* Recruits Signed LOI

 

Marshall

Major Contributors Returning  -1

Significant Contributors Returning  – 2

4 out 5 Top Scorers

4 Starters

 

La Tech

Major Contributors Returning  -1

Significant Contributors Returning  – 0

3 out 5 Top Scorers

4 Starters

 

UTEP

Major Contributors Returning  -1

Significant Contributors Returning  –2

4 out 5 Top Scorers

4 Starters

 

Charlotte

Major Contributors Returning  -0

Significant Contributors Returning  –3

4 out 5 Top Scorers

4 Starters

1 3* Recruit Signed LOI

 

WKU

Major Contributors Returning  -0

Significant Contributors Returning  –1

2 out 5 Top Scorers

3 Starters (4th starter Fredrick Edmond is suspended)

 

Rice

Go-to-guys Returning  – 1

Major Contributors Returning  – 1

Significant Contributors Returning  –1

5 out 5 Top Scorers

4 Starters

2 3* Recruits Signed LOI

 

North Texas

Major Contributors – 1

Significant Contributors –3

4 out 5 top Scores

5 Starters

1 2* Recruit Signed LOI

 

Yes North Texas has a good amount of scoring and talent returning, but these other teams are also returning talent. These other teams are also adding good recruits as well. The talent on these others teams is in most cases better than what North Texas has. Also these other teams have better coaches. It proves that the way North Texas is currently thinking is flawed big time.

Most North Texas fans were led to believe that Benford had to win this past season. He had to show progress on the court in order to keep his job. I’d like for the athletic department to show me the progress. I know exactly what they would tell me too. They’d point towards the improved offensive numbers. Okay thats good, but what about the defense? The Mean Green’s defensive efficiency number has not been above 110 since before Johnny Jones took the job. You’d have to look back before to 2001-02 to find a worse defensive efficient team for North Texas. Most importantly the better offensive numbers did not translate into wins.

Well then it must have been that tough schedule North Texas faced this year. Folks North Texas out of conference strength of schedule ranked 293rd this year out of 351 teams. That is the easiest out of conference schedule since Benford’s arrival. The overall strength of schedule was ranked 247th which was the second easiest schedule since Benford was hired. The easiest was 2012-13 which ranked 251st. Ironically North Texas only won 12 games in each of those years. Benford built his schedule this year to win easy games. He must have felt the ghost pressure of having to win.

Im sure another excuse out there is that Johnny Jones took time to get it going too at North Texas. Well for one Jones didnt inherit a solid roster that was picked to win the conference like Benford did. Secondly JJ’s teams didnt take a dip in the W column like Benford’s just did. Yes Jones dipped from 13 to 5 wins his second year, but after that his teams kept getting better. Benford plateaued in year 2 with 16 wins. Since then his teams have gotten worse.

It is my opinion that North Texas is making a foolish decision by keeping Benford. I dont see any reason for keeping the coach. It sends a signal to students, alumni, and fans that the North Texas Mens Basketball is a dead program. It sends out the message that failure is acceptable at North Texas. It just backs up the article written by the Texas Tribune stating that North Texas is spending millions of dollars on losing.

When exactly will we see some accountability within the North Texas athletic department?

 

Tony Benford Teams By the Numbers

YearStatNational RankYearStatNational Rank
WinsLosses
201312
201320
201416
201416
201514201517
201612201620
Offensive EfficiencyDefensive Efficiency
201394.92792013104229
201498.92712014104.3158
201597.42662015104198
2016100.12402016111.4317
Offensive 2pt % Defensive 2pt %
201344.9278201345.387
201444.8317201447113
201547.8166201548.1178
201649.8124201652.7316
Offensive 3pt % Defensive 3pt %
201328.6334201335.7260
2014
34.2175201435.5243
201529.9326201534.2171
201632.2281201636.2259
Minutes Continuity*
201360.7%96
201437.6%282
201543.9%223
201616.8%346
Minutes Continuity Description- It’s determining what percentage of a team’s minutes are played by the same player from last season to this season