Men's Basketball

UT Arlington hires new men's basketball coach - and Kevin Durant approves

UTA introduced its new men's basketball coach, Chris Ogden (left), who received a jersey from UTA Director of Athletics Jim Baker (right) at a press conference in Arlington, Friday, April 6, 2018.
UTA introduced its new men's basketball coach, Chris Ogden (left), who received a jersey from UTA Director of Athletics Jim Baker (right) at a press conference in Arlington, Friday, April 6, 2018. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Fans, administrators, donors and players packed the hospitality suite at College Park Center on the UT Arlington campus Friday morning.

They were there to greet the Mavericks' new men's basketball coach, Chris Ogden.

After a week of grousing and mumbling over the sudden firing of longtime coach Scott Cross, it was time to move on. At least for some.

Ogden, a longtime assistant who spent the past two seasons at Texas Tech, was introduced as UTA's eighth men's coach.

He replaces Cross, who was fired on March 26 along with his staff by UTA athletic director Jim Baker. Cross had been the Mavs head coach for 12 seasons.

"I’ve worked for this my whole life dating back to playing basketball," said Ogden, who played at Seminole High School. "I’ve dreamed of having a job in Texas my whole life. I feel I’m ready.

"But it’s kind of like being a father. You think you’re ready but you’re not. Next thing you know your hair is falling out. I’m going to hire a staff that has enough experience around me."

Ogden said he'll work hard to earn the trust of those (including athletic donors) upset by Cross's firing.

"I get why everybody is upset. There is nobody that has more respect for Scott Cross than I do," he said. "I look forward to establishing a relationship with everybody. I know it’s not going to happen over night. I get that. But give me a chance to earn your trust."

That starts with the players, whom Ogden met with Friday morning. Many of the current players attended the press conference. Athletic director Jim Baker thanked the players for handling the coaching shakeup, which he called a "curve ball."

"I think it's still kind of settling in now," junior guard DJ Bryant said. "It's different. Not anything anybody expected. But after speaking with the [former] coaches, they instilled in us that God has a plan. We're at peace with what's to come."

Baker said he hopes the hiring helps grow the program and helps it reach a new level.

"It's an eventual thing, you want to continue to grow your program. You're not going to do it overnight," Baker said. "So you make the steps of hiring a new coach and surrounding him with the people he needs to be successful. It's on us. We have to go out and raise money and get sponsorships and do those things in the community to grow our attendance. It's a full-court press from here on."

Ogden played four seasons at the University of Texas (2000-03) where he was a captain on the Longhorns 2003 Final Four team. He finished his career at UT with 97 team victories, which was more than any other player in program history at the time.

"Congrats to my friend [Chris Ogden] on becoming the next head coach for UT Arlington," Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant tweeted. "He is the true definition of a players coach! Big things ahead for him and his program."

He went on to spend 12 seasons on Rick Barnes' Longhorn staff, including the last seven of that stint as an assistant coach. Ogden was an assistant under Barnes at Tennessee for the 2015-16 season before moving to Texas Tech.

Baker told the Star-Telegram earlier in the week that one of the key abilities of the next head coach was going to be the ability to amplify the Mavs' recruiting efforts. That's something that Ogden should be able to do.

He was instrumental in helping Texas land six McDonald's All-Americans, including NBA stars Avery Bradley, Corey Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Myles Turner.

Ogden has coached seven players that have been drafted into the NBA, including Thompson (4th overall pick in 2011), Jordan Hamilton (No. 26 overall in 2011) and Joseph (No. 29 overall in 2011).

This past season, he was a part of a Red Raiders program that made it to the Elite Eight, where it lost to eventual national champion Villanova.

The Sun Belt, which has been a one-bid league to the NCAA tournament, will provide a tough test for Ogden with rising expectations of the program. Cross led UTA to its only NCAA tournament in 2008, his second season as coach. The Mavs also earned NIT bids in 2012 and in 2017, when they reached the quarterfinals.

Baker said he interviewed four candidates at the Final Four in San Antonio and brought two of them to the campus for a more extensive interview. Ogden, he said, was the right fit. The extent of the backlash he received from some over Cross's dismissal surprised Baker.

"Probably more than I thought [we'd get]. I knew there was going to be a backlash. Scott was a very popular coach and he won and there’s no hiding from that," he said. "Bottom line, we had a different philosophy where we thought this program was going. That is it. There is nothing more than that. I have all the respect for Scott. Scott will be in the [UTA] Hall of Honor. Scott will be welcomed back on this campus; he might not want to."

Baker said the decision came down to ratcheting up expectations for the program.

"We want to play in March, so our expectations are to play in March, we're not hiding from that," Baker said. "You're not going to go every year, but we expect with this building, with recruiting around here and with the energy that we hope we can build with the new staff that's a place we can be."

Chris Ogden’s coaching history

Seasons, School, Position

2003-04, Texas, Student Assistant Coach

2004-08, Texas, Administrative Assistant

2008-15, Texas, Assistant Coach

2015-16, Tennessee, Assistant Coach

2016-18, Texas Tech, Assistant Coach

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