Texas Tech basketball: Grant McCasland is the most predictable Kirby Hocutt hire ever

Mar 30, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; North Texas Mean Green head coach Grant McCasland in the first half against the UAB Blazers at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 30, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; North Texas Mean Green head coach Grant McCasland in the first half against the UAB Blazers at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports /

Bringing an end to the most uneventful job search imaginable, the Texas Tech basketball program has named former University of North Texas head coach Grant McCasland its new head coach, news that comes as no surprise to anyone after weeks of reports that he was the frontrunner for the position.  In fact, as yet another coaching vacancy is filled under the leadership of AD Kirby Hocutt, it is now obvious that this was always going to be the outcome because McCasland is the quintessential Hocutt hire.

There was never going to be any other outcome to this process unless McCasland himself decided to turn down the job.  That’s because he perfectly fits the mold of nearly every significant hire Hocutt has made in the post-Kliff Kingsbury portion of his tenure.

To say that Hocutt has a type is an understatement.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing either.  After all, a person in his position must have a set of attributes and qualities that are essential when looking to hire someone to front a multi-million-dollar athletics “progrum”.

Stray too far from the type of candidate that you believe will be the most successful for your university and you are in danger of an implosion down the road.  On the other hand, even some of Hocutt’s hand-picked candidates have self-destructed in recent years proving that coaching hires are as predictable as the bounce of a football.

Look back at the hires Hocutt has made as Tech’s AD and a pattern is easily noticeable.  (Take away Billy Gillespie because that was put in place by the higher-ups at Tech prior to Hocutt’s arrival in 2011.)

You will find no instances where he pillaged another major conference program and stole their head coach (save for one minor move).  Remember, Tubby Smith was fired by Minnesota when Hocutt gave him safe harbor in Lubbock in 2013.  That’s about as close as Tech has come to making a so-called splash hire under Hocutt’s guidance.  (Hocutt did lure women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings away from Minnesota in 2014 but that was hardly the type of move that registered on the NCAA Richter scale.)

In fact, since the fall of 2012, Hocutt has hired Kingsbury, Matt Wells, and Joey McGuire to lead his football program, Smith, Chris Beard, Mark Adams, and now McCasland to head his basketball program and Tim Tadlock to guide his baseball program.  When you then also factor in Candi Whitaker and Krista Gerlich as the Lady Raider basketball coaches sandwiched around Stollings, you get eleven coaches that Hocutt has hired in the four most important sports that Texas Tech sponsors.

Among that group, you will find only two (Smith and Stollings) who took the reins in Lubbock with any major conference head coaching experience on their resume.  What’s more, neither Adams, McGuire, nor Tadlock had ever been head coaches at all at the Division I level.

So for anyone to think that Hocutt was going to break form and hire a big-name head coach this time around was either naive or just wishful thinking.  Tech simply isn’t going to pony up the kind of money a move like that would require because, in large part, there is a belief in West Texas and around the south that your football coach should be paid more than your basketball coach (except in extreme cases such as Matt Wells vs. Chris Beard).

Similarly, dreams of bringing in a coach from the NBA such as former Florida Gators’ and current Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan or even former Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego (both of whom were loosely rumored to be potential targets) were never realistic.  If Hocutt didn’t give this job to current Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham two years ago, he wasn’t going to give it to any other NBA coach this time around.  Such a move is too risky for the notoriously cautious Hocutt.

Also, a name-brand coach with baggage, one who has rehabbed his image since falling from grace wasn’t going to be in Hocutt’s playbook either.  After all, he was too turned off by the brashness and bravado of current Houston Cougars football coach Dana Holgorsen to even grant him a courtesy interview back in 2019 despite the fact that such a meeting had been arranged by Tech’s largest football booster, Cody Campbell.

If Holgorsen, who has never been fired for or even accused of any improprieties other than being one wild ride of a personality, was too edgy for Hocutt to consider, then coaches such as Xavier’s Sean Miller, UAB’s Andy Kennedy, or new St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino were always going to be far too dangerous for Hocutt to touch given that all three have various levels of misbehavior in their past.

So in the end, it was always going to be McCasland.  We all knew it, at least those of us who were willing to be honest with ourselves and look at the realities of where Tech stands as a program on a national scale and the track record of the man calling the ultimate shot.  And that’s not a bad outcome.

In fact, McCasland makes the most sense of any hire that Tech could have reasonably made this year.  With a 201-89 (.702) record as either a D-I or D-II head coach, he has twice the number of NCAA victories that Beard had when he came to Lubbock and the same number of NCAA Tournament births (1).

He’s also been part of the Texas Tech program before as the Director of Operations from 1999-2001 under James Dickey.  What’s more, he has spent approximately two decades coaching in Texas in some capacity (including working as an assistant for Scott Drew at Baylor from 2011-16) allowing him to build inroads across the state (something that is admittedly not as important in basketball as it might be in football given the national nature of basketball recruiting).

The response to McCasland as a candidate at Tech was rather lukewarm when his name surfaced in regard to the Red Raiders about a month ago.  Since then, many have warmed to him though(an outcome that was helped tremendously by UNT’s run to this year’s N.I.T. Championship, no doubt).

That’s good because he’s the man now charged with getting Tech back to national prominence.  His reputation suggests he’ll bring with him a familiar, rugged defense-first mindset that should feel comfortable to Red Raider fans.  He also has to feel extremely comfortable to Kirby Hocutt because never was a candidate cut more from the cloth that Hocutt prefers when hiring a head coach than McCasland.

Let’s just hope this move proves to be more in the vein of Tadlock or McGuire rather than Wells or Adams because even when Hocutt plays it safe, there will always be risks involved.