One of the first tasks on new North Texas coach Tony Benford’s to-do list once he officially took over as the Mean Green’s head coach Wednesday was to rekindle an old relationship with Tony Mitchell.
The dynamic 6-8 forward who was named the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year briefly considered declaring for the NBA draft following last season.
Mitchell announced that he would return for his sophomore season April 9 before former UNT head coach Johnny Jones left to become the head coach at LSU.
Mitchell said Wednesday that he would stand by that decision after meeting Benford, who recruited him while he was an assistant coach at Marquette.
“Coach Benford is a good coach,” Mitchell said. “He is a good fit for our program and will help take us to another level. The plan is to stay for another year.”
Benford said he was set to meet with Mitchell’s mother, Angie, following his introductory press conference Wednesday.
“Angie and I have a great relationship, and I have a great relationship with Tony,” Benford said. “But we haven’t coached him. Coach Jones and [former UNT assistant Shawn] Forrest were his guys. It’s a matter of trust. The thing that we have to convince Tony of is that we are going to invest in his game. That is what I told him. I have recruited and developed a lot of guys who have played at the next level.”
Benford has recruited and coached five players who went on to become first-round picks in the NBA draft, including Ike Diogu of Garland.
The return of Mitchell will bolster the Mean Green’s lineup significantly.
Mitchell averaged 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds a game for UNT last season, despite not becoming eligible to practice or play until the end of the first semester. He played in 23 games.
One staff member in place
Benford has one member of his coaching staff in place and soon could add another.
Bart Lundy, the former head coach at High Point who spent the last three seasons as the director of basketball operations at Marquette, will be a member of Benford’s staff.
Benford also is hoping to add Rob Evans as an assistant. Evans was a member of the staff at TCU last season.
TCU recently hired former LSU head coach Trent Johnson as its new head coach.
“Bart’s a very good coach,” Benford said. “I’m trying to get Rob Evans. SMU wants him. He is going over there tomorrow and is at TCU now. I am trying to get him to come here with me.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .