North Texas Daily

Basketball head coaches ready for a smoother second year

Basketball head coaches ready for a smoother second year

Basketball head coaches ready for a smoother second year
November 26
12:17 2013

Akshay Mirchandani / Staff Writer

Last season was a year of change for both Mean Green basketball teams, as the squads were introduced to new head coaches and their subsequent styles.

Now in their second years with their respective teams, both men’s head coach Tony Benford and women’s head coach Mike Petersen are looking to bring stability back to the program.

“The kids are really starting to buy into what we’re doing,” Benford said. “We’re still a work in progress but with the guys we’ve added, if we can just stay healthy, we have the chance to have a pretty good team.”

One of the challenges both head coaches have been implementing is the style of play that they would like to run – something that has become easier this season.

“The system is ‘play hard.’ I thought we got that last year pretty good,” Petersen said. “We’ll tweak what we do offensively and defensively every year, but this group gets it.”

For the men’s basketball team, one change Benford made is more freedom, because the players understand his system better this season.

“He opened it up more because we were getting used to the system,” senior forward Alzee Williams said. “We’re trying to play with more freedom and I think that’s the difference.”

After spending last season with a few injuries and a short rotation, the biggest difference for the women’s team is a deeper bench. Petersen said it gives the team more options and helps the defense.

“This team has greater depth,” Petersen said. “I don’t think we suited up 12 players last year. We have functional depth. We have players that come off the bench and help us. We’re a better defensive team. Last year, if we beat you, we probably out scored you. This year, we’re able to hold people down offensively a little bit better.”

According to Benford, he and Petersen had to face similar challenges when they both arrived at UNT last season. The biggest one was establishing themselves on their teams.

“For [Petersen] it might have been tough because he took over a situation where it was their third coach in three years,” Benford said. “Anytime you’re taking over a program, you have to establish your own identity and I think that’s always a challenge.”

Williams said that the players have bought into Benford’s identity that he established since arriving last year.

“He really cares about his players,” Williams said. “On and off the court, he wants us to be successful in life. He just wants us to give it our all on the court, 100 percent, and he said he’s got our back.”

Petersen said that a challenge for all new coaches is bringing a group of people together for a common goal. While this has been difficult, he said that he is seeing his team come together.

“That’s a challenge for every coach, to get everyone on the same page and everybody focused on the same goals,” Petersen said. “We’re making progress and I think we made progress there last year.”

Through all the challenges Benford and Petersen have gone through during their first two seasons with UNT, the two talk and sometimes even pick up advice from one another. “Coach Petersen is a good friend. He’s a really good coach with a lot of wisdom,” Benford said. “I’ve visited with him, I watch his practice and I may pick up something from watching his practice or his games that can translate over to us. I wish him the best, I hope he has success and know he feels the same way.”

Feature photo: Tony Benford head coach of the University of North Texas mean green men’s basketball team during a home game against Oklahoma City Stars at the Super Pit on Nov. 1 (Left). Mike Petersen head coach of the North Texas mean green women’s basketball team reacts during a home game against the Florida International University Golden Panthers at the Super Pit on Feb. 9 (Right). Photos courtesy of Rick Yeatts. Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor 

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