As the Texas Tech basketball head coach search continues, it is being reported by InsidetheRedRaiders.com that current University of North Texas head coach Grant McCasland will be interviewed. That would make three known candidates as Tech reportedly interviewed former Chris Beard assistant Mark Adams and former Texas Tech player and current Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham on Saturday.
McCasland, 44, is one of the hottest names in the mid-major coaching game these days following his team’s upset of No. 3 seed Purdue in the first round of this year’s NCAA Tournament. That notoriety made him a top commodity among up-and-coming coaches and got him an interview with Oklahoma for their head coach job, which eventually went to Porter Moser who led Loyola-Chicago to the 2018 Final Four and this year’s Sweet 16.
Earning his Master’s degree at Texas Tech after being a walk-on at Baylor, McCasland has seven years of experience as a college head coach. In that time, he’s produced at least 20 wins in every season but 2020-21, which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this past season, his North Texas squad went 18-10 overall and finished 3rd in the Conference USA West division. But a surprise run to the conference tournament championship gave the Mean Green the opportunity to play in the Big Dance where they made some noise by pulling off one of the many opening weekend upsets that we saw this year.
Overall, his career record stands at an impressive 153-75 (.671). That includes a mark of 98-63 at the Division I level where he has had stops at Arkansas State and UNT. He also boasts a JUCO national championship on his resume with the 2007 Midland Chaparrals.
But despite his ties to West Texas and Texas Tech, McCasland feels like a bit of a long-shot candidate. He doesn’t have the legendary name among Red Raider fans nor the NBA pedigree that Darvin Ham has and he won’t have the current and former player and donor support that Mark Adams seems to have going for him.
Still, he does fit the profile of what Tech is likely looking for in a coach. He’s got experience but is still young enough to be considered on the upswing in his career. And more importantly, his teams are known for playing solid defense, which has become the hallmark of Texas Tech basketball in recent years.
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This past season, UNT ranked No. 48 nationally in the KenPom.com adjusted defensive efficiency rating (an estimate of how many points a team surrenders per 100 possessions). While that’s not quite up to Texas Tech standards, it is an indication that McCasland prioritizes that aspect of the game as his team gave up just 94.1 points per 100 possessions.
Meanwhile, UNT scored 106.6 points per 100 possessions putting them just outside the top 100 in Ken Pom’s rankings at No. 101, which is in the top third of all teams in Division I.
Ultimately, McCasland would be a safe hire but that’s not what Tech needs in this instance. Playing it safe isn’t going to continue the run that this program has seen over the last five years. There’s no denying that McCasland is a solid coach and his Division I resume is far beyond that of the other candidates we know Tech has contacted or interviewed but that likely won’t be enough to land him this job.
This is a time for Tech to make a bold statement and excite the fan base and it doesn’t feel that McCasland would fit that bill. Here’s hoping Tech goes in a different direction.