It has been 155 days since Wren Baker was named vice president and athletic director at the University of North Texas. On day 154, he made his first massive move as A.D.
In a press release Sunday night, Baker announced men’s basketball head coach Tony Benford would not be returning to the program. Benford was at the end of a five-year deal.
Baker is now tasked with finding Benford’s replacement – the first major coaching hire of his tenure.
While he has a few potential replacements in mind, Baker is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“There are a lot of names in mind but none I would share publicly,” Baker said. “Confidentiality is key. The candidates don’t want to be exposed. If you talk to one or two and that is out, people think you’re on your third or fourth candidate. That’s not a good situation for you. I’ve got names, and expect more to turn up.”
Benford leaves the program after failing to qualify for the Conference USA tournament this season. The Mean Green posted an 8-22 overall record and just a 2-16 mark in conference. Despite where the program stands now, Baker thinks the job is an attractive one.
Baker is unsure of when the new head coach will be announced, but he knows one thing – North Texas needs experience.
“I think we need somebody that has demonstrated experience in Division I,” Baker said. “I have a preference of getting a sitting head coach. If we can hire a sitting Division I head coach who is successful, that would be awesome, but we won’t restrict ourselves to that.”
He wants to find a coach that is committed to North Texas’ history of academic success as well. But Baker knows one thing he must find – wins. For a fan base that has endured five straight seasons at or below .500, Baker sees the frustration.
“I get it,” Baker said. “We all want to win. But first of all, I would say it would not be accurate to paint this men’s basketball staff as a failure. We haven’t had hardly any off-the-court incidents with our kids. Don’t take that for granted. But at the end of the day, they haven’t won enough for the fans. We will go and find a coach that will make us highly competitive in this league.”
Baker is committed to finding the best possible candidate and is willing to pay whatever it takes. Being the first hire of his tenure, he understands the implications it could have.
“If I have to come back and move some money or raise some money to get the right person, I would do that,” Baker said. “I believe the commitment to our university from our donors and fans is at an all-time high. This is an important, important hire at an important time for our athletic department and university.”