North Texas Daily

Pay the man: Tony Benford deserves one last shot

Pay the man: Tony Benford deserves one last shot

March 03
00:53 2016

Torie Mosley | Staff Writer


North Texas men’s basketball has failed to produce a winning record since the 2011-2012 season. To put things in perspective, the first Avengers movie was just released, LeBron James had just won his first NBA Finals Championship and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was the No. 1 song in the country.

Four years later, Marvel is already approaching a third Avengers film, LeBron hasn’t won a ring since the 2012-2013 season and, well, Adele is still rocking the Billboard Top 40 charts.

When a team struggles for this long, everyone and their mother tends to call for the coach’s head. With a year left on his five-year contract and only one non-losing season on his resume, the topic of North Texas head coach Tony Benford’s standing with the program approaches now more than ever with the “win now” attitude that is attached to collegiate sports.

Although Benford has produced more losses than wins as a head coach, he should be given one final shot at proving he can lead North Texas by fulfilling the last year of his contract, no matter what happens in this season’s C-USA tournament.

Benford has already proven that he is a winner when given the right opportunity. As an assistant coach at New Mexico, he reached five NCAA Tournaments in six seasons and eventually found success at Arizona State, Nebraska and Marquette.

Throughout this season, several Mean Green players have expressed they would not be at North Texas if it were not for the guidance and attitude Benford brings every day. Both star forward Jeremy Combs and freshman center Rickey Brice Jr. said they turned down several big name basketball programs to join Benford because of his promise to utilize their skills. Graduate forward Eric Katenda even used his final year of eligibility to play for North Texas after leaving Notre Dame, remembering the impression Benford left on him on a recruitment trip years ago.

Benford also convinced McDonald’s All-American and former junior SMU guard Keith Fraizer to join his former AAU teammate, junior guard J-Mychal Reese, at North Texas. Frazier is also the first McDonald’s All-American in Mean Green history.

Head basketball coach Tony Benford draws out plays in the closing minutes of a game against FIU. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Head basketball coach Tony Benford draws out plays in the closing minutes of a game against FIU. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

In his fourth season, Benford finally has his own recruits, transfers and a talented group of freshmen returning next year to make good on Benford’s faith in recruiting them. Eliminating the head coach just as the youngsters start to gel with each other would impede their progress and be a step backwards.

History shows collegiate coaches usually take a few years to perfect their systems. Although the win-loss column doesn’t show it yet, Benford’s hard work is starting to pay off with the development of the team’s younger players.

Combs, for example, has improved across the board statistically, including five more points and rebounds per game from his freshman campaign. Even junior Deckie Johnson, who is in his first season with the Mean Green, has improved tremendously as the season has progressed and has cemented himself as a go-to scorer and assassin behind the three-point line.

To think Benford didn’t play a key role in their development is naïve.

North Texas also has a track record of giving men’s basketball coaches plenty of time, regardless of success. Jimmy Gales went 84-118 for the Mean Green and still hung around for seven years before the axe came down. Current Louisiana State University head coach Johnny Jones took seven years to string together consecutive winning seasons for the Mean Green before darting to LSU. Once Jones reached that mark at North Texas, albeit taking awhile, he notched six straight seasons over .500 for the Mean Green.

Like Jones was years into his tenure, Benford could be on the verge of a breakout season.

The North Texas faithful could be in for a bit of a surprise come next season when all of Benford’s high-profile recruits will hit the court together. The 24-year coach deserves one last try to show he’s worth the $400,000 North Texas must pay him to stay next year. Besides, North Texas is still on the hook for former head football coach Dan McCarney’s contract and just dished out $3.625 million to Seth Littrell for the same job.

Benford can win for North Texas. He just needs the ball in his hand as the clock ticks down on his contract.

Featured Image: Head basketball coach Tony Benford yells out plays during a game against FIU. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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  1. Seriously?
    Seriously? March 03, 13:46

    No. Fire Benford. Fire RV.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Alumnus
    Alumnus March 03, 21:24

    You have got to be kidding. Keep Benford on staff as a recruiter if you want to; he has proven to be pretty adept at that aspect of the game. But UNT needs a real head coach, someone who can turn this program into a perennial winner. Mr. Villareal needs to open up the bank and hire a first-rate coach and quit trying to make do with also-fans. Keeping Benford on for another season is not forward thinking.

    Reply to this comment
  3. No
    No March 06, 14:16

    Please leave, along with Tony, as soon as the tournament is over.

    This is terrible. Student journalism at its worst.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Bill Dicks
    Bill Dicks March 15, 14:55

    Tony Benford is one of the biggest scumbags in all of sports. The only person that Tony Benford ever took care of and cared about was Tony Benford. He does keep that giant sack of crap Rob Evans around though. He is another dirtball that should have been put out to pasture long ago. North Texas would be smart to dump these two pieces of trash in the landfill and move on to a person who actually knows what he is doing. Benford and Evans should not even be allowed to coach a church-league team. They are TUUUUURRRIBBBLLLE as Benford likes to say!


    An Arizona State Fan

    Reply to this comment

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