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Better late than never as Tech finds right fit to lead program

Texas Tech had an opportunity to make the right decision two years ago, but let emotion get in the way of a standout hire.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Championship-UAB vs North Texas Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve never been a fan of players influencing coaching hire decisions.

Players are transitive, here one moment, gone the next. When Chris Beard departed the Texas Tech men’s basketball program two years ago to the day, key components of the roster expressed an overwhelming demand to promote then-assistant Mark Adams to the vacant head coaching position.

Red Raider fans universally backed the players in their endeavor to retain Adams, the soft-spoken, defensive guru credited with designing one of the country’s most creative, vicious and effective systems for preventing opponents from scoring.

The absence of any meaningful NCAA Division I coaching experience on Adams’s resume deterred no one as players, fans, and, ultimately, university administrators acted on emotion instead of logic.

This was a little about loyalty, and a lot about revenge.

Five days after Tech formed a prosthetic search committee, the university announced the promotion of Adams to take charge of the program. The revenge tour was in place.

Had the committee done anything beyond read message boards and tweets mandating it hire Adams or risk losing the entire team to the transfer portal, it may have had the time to adequately review some of the other quality candidates for the position - among them, Grant McCasland, the North Texas coach who did nothing but win 20 games a year at a program with few resources to aid a postseason-minded basketball coach.

In spite of the myriad obstacles to winning at North Texas, McCasland led the Mean Green to a CBI championship, the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, and a Conference USA Championship that would’ve led to another NCAA Tournament appearance had it been played.

McCasland also won at lower levels and stockpiled more than enough evidence he was a fit and capable program builder who could take over for Beard and carry Tech to the next and final step toward winning a national championship.

But Adams didn’t get on the plane, so, whatever.

Praise and celebrations ensued after Tech made the hire, and though six players transferred out of the program - including Vladislav Goldin, who is playing in the Final Four right now, Kyler Edwards, Tyreek Smith and Micah Peavy - Adams brought in enough talent to stabilize the roster, win 27 games and make it to the Sweet 16.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Illinois vs Arkansas
Key voices encouraging Tech to promote Adams ended up leaving the following year, anyway.
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Then something must have happened, because the same players clamoring for Adams to take over for Beard transferred this past offseason, including Tech’s two best players, Kevin McCullar and Terrence Shannon Jr., who were recruited to Lubbock by Beard.

The subsequent roster comprised mostly Adams’s guys at that point, and, well, we all saw what happened. Tech posted its worst record since Tubby Smith’s 13-19 team back in 2013-2014, and Adams eventually resigned after saying making wildly insensitive comments.

Meanwhile, McCasland was doing what he’d always been doing - winning. In the two years since Tech spurned him, he went 25-7 (16-2 in Conference USA) and 31-7 (16-4), with an NIT Championship victory.

Fortunately for Tech, McCasland doesn’t hold grudges as well as we do.

The 46-year-old accepted the head coaching position today and, finally, Tech got it right. The Red Raiders will be led by a man of high character with a reputation for program-building and postseason success at programs not traditionally known for high-level success. He has deep Texas ties, recruits well, and wants to be in Lubbock.

NCAA Basketball: ESPN Events Invitational-Miami vs. North Texas
McCasland is a perfect fit for the program now, just as he was two years ago.
Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

The easiest decision has been in front of Tech for two years, and the important thing is we made the right one today.