North Texas Daily

New Mean Green men’s basketball culture expected to continue into this season

New Mean Green men’s basketball culture expected to continue into this season

New Mean Green men’s basketball culture expected to continue into this season
October 20
08:00 2018

Grant McCasland was named the North Texas men’s basketball head coach on March 13, 2017, with the challenge to change the culture of a program that was 62-95 in the previous five seasons under former head coach Tony Bedford.

The five seasons under Bedford bred a losing culture for the Mean Green. From 2012-16, North Texas never had a season above .500, culminating in an 8-22 season in 2016.

“I believe we can compete for championships, and unfortunately, we have fallen short of those expectations,” said athletics director Wren Baker in an interview with Mean Green Sports.

In May of 2017, two team members and a student manager who played and worked under Bedford were arrested for organized criminal activity and drug possession, according to a police report.

McCasland has already instilled a winning mentality in his team. He arrived at North Texas after leading Arkansas State to a 20-win season during his first year with the Red Wolves.

In the past, McCasland won the 2007 NJCAA national championship at Midland College. McCasland’s success has earned him 10 different coach of the year awards throughout his career.

“He’s a winner,” junior guard Roosevelt Smart said. “He’s been a winner everywhere he’s been. He has the trust in us to let us go out there and play our game. We have to do our job by playing hard every possession and get wins. He’s definitely a person that brings the best out of you.”

Despite the success and winning culture McCasland brings to the table, he said there are further achievements he wishes to accomplish with the Mean Green.

“We want to win the league,” McCasland said. “We want to put ourselves in a position to win every game we play. To do that, we have to take an approach to find a way to get better every day.”

McCasland’s energy has already rubbed off on his team, which has given the Mean Green confidence to do something they haven’t been able to accomplish since joining Conference USA.

“We’re going to win the conference,” senior guard Jorden Duffy said.

Duffy was injured during last season and missed 15 games. Before the first game of the College Basketball Invitational tournament, he was finally healthy and inserted into the starting lineup. He averaged 17.8 points per game and hit 18 three-pointers.

Duffy said this UNT team is experienced and talented, which could lead to something very exciting taking place in March.

“We have guys who love basketball, love competing and are willing to learn,” Duffy said. “We’ll have a chance to be dancing in March at the NCAA tournament.”

The path to winning a C-USA title will not be easy, as Marshall University will start the season as the returning 2018 C-USA tournament champions. Marshall, a No. 13 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament, knocked No. 4 seed Wichita State in the first round of March Madness in 2017.

However, there are three major factors that could contribute to North Texas winning their first conference championship in eight years.

First, North Texas won 20 games last season — the first time they have hit the 20-win mark since the 2011-2012 season.

Second, the Mean Green won the College Basketball Invitational tournament last March, which was their first national postseason tournament in program history.

Third, the Mean Green traveled to Rome, Italy, this summer and won all three games they played against professional Italian teams.

“The biggest part of Italy was the practices and the mentality of preparation that we need to have,” McCasland said. “The games were more secondary, in regard to the development of our team. It was more about turning the page and saying, ‘Hey, what we did last year was a good start, but now how do we win championships in C-USA and put ourselves in a position to play in the NCAA tournament?’”

Smart said these three factors along with McCasland have contributed to the exciting and confident atmosphere that is currently surrounding the Mean Green men’s basketball program. The energy that McCasland has created at North Texas led to the basketball attendance improving 27 percent from the 2016-2017 season.

“Once Coach Mac and his staff started to bring the winning culture, we just started playing North Texas basketball,” Smart said. “People started coming to the games and wanted to watch us.”

Featured Image: Two Mean Green basketball players jump for the tip off to start off practice. Sarah Shaw

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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