North Texas is planning a press conference in advance of spring football practice next week and could announce that it has finalized a contract extension for head coach Dan McCarney by that time.
UNT also could introduce two new assistant coaches at the press conference, including former Houston Texans assistant Perry Carter. A source close to the situation said late Tuesday that Carter is set to join UNT’s staff in the next few days.
UNT has been working on an extension for McCarney since the days leading up to its win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day.
A school spokesman said that McCarney and UNT have agreed to the deal in principle. The contract will be for four seasons with a clause for an automatic renewal for a fifth season based on the team’s on-field performance.
UNT officials previously had said that the terms of the extension would keep McCarney at UNT through the 2018 season. McCarney’s original contract runs through the 2015 season.
“You can talk about so many things coach McCarney has done,” UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said late last season. “He has improved things academically and with the way we go about strength and conditioning. Our kids are getting bigger and stronger. He also has a relationship with the community, has been able to get people on the bandwagon and get the program to the point where it needs to be.”
UNT finished 9-4 in 2013, when the Mean Green earned just its third bowl win. McCarney is 18-19 in three seasons at UNT.
“That’s what we’ve talked about since we got the phone call,” McCarney said after the Mean Green’s win over UNLV. “We thought about not just being a bowl participant, but being a bowl champion.”
Finalizing McCarney’s extension is just one challenge UNT faces in terms of building its coaching staff heading into the 2014 season. The school is in the process of replacing both of its secondary coaches.
UNT cornerbacks coach Ryan Walters left to join the staff at Memphis, while safeties coach/recruiting coordinator Noah Joseph joined the staff at Indiana.
Carter will replace Joseph. He has been with the Texans since 2006 and last worked on the college level at Texas A&M-Commerce in 2004. UNT director of football operations Scotty Conley was Commerce’s head coach when Carter was on the staff.
UNT has announced one new addition to its staff in defensive line coach Kevin Patrick. The former South Florida assistant joined McCarney’s staff shortly after Mike Nelson announced his retirement.
Nelson spent the last five years of his long career as a college and Canadian Football League assistant coach at UNT.
UNT to face Rice in final road game of season
UNT will face Rice tonight in its final road game in Conference USA play looking to regain the form it showed in one of its biggest wins of the season just a few days ago.
The Mean Green (11-15, 5-8 C-USA) played arguably its best game of the season while knocking off league power UTEP 73-64 on Wednesday before turning around and struggling in a 63-43 loss to Tulsa.
The split set up a huge game for UNT today against Rice (12-14, 5-8). Along with Tulsa, the Mean Green and the Owls are in a three-way tie for 10th place in C-USA.
“This is a huge game,” UNT coach Mike Petersen said. “We knew with five games left that we needed to win three of them to get a bye [in the C-USA tournament]. The first week we were looking at UTEP and then on the road at Tulsa. We were thinking that if we could get a split, that would be good. It just doesn’t look as good after we beat UTEP in the first game.”
Bouncing back would be key for UNT because it would give the Mean Green a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Owls.
The key to reaching that goal for UNT could be containing Rice senior forward Jessica Kuster, who is averaging 20.8 points and 13.4 rebounds per game.
UNT has excelled much of the season in containing other teams’ top players, including UTEP forward Kayla Thornton, who went 6-for-22 from the field on a night she scored 16 points. Thornton is averaging 20.5 points.
“We have done a good job with those players,” Petersen said of opponents’ offensive stars. “Kuster is another one.”
Petersen says UNT is ready for the challenge Kuster and Rice will present after a tough game against Tulsa.
“It was the oddest game,” Petersen said. “We held them to 16 percent shooting in the first half and were down two. Until they made four straight 3s, we were OK. We got a little frustrated offensively and laid an egg.”
UNT coming off great game handling ball
UNT posted one of its best games of the season in terms of taking care of the ball on Saturday in a win over Florida Atlantic.
The Mean Green (14-13, 5-8) tied a season low with just seven turnovers and finished with 12 assists in a 78-76 win over the Golden Panthers that extended UNT’s winning streak to three games.
UNT will look to build on that performance Thursday when the Mean Green travels to Texas-San Antonio for its final road game of the regular season.
“We are sharing the ball and are making the extra pass,” UNT coach Tony Benford said. “We kept it simple, ran our plays, screened for each other and didn’t force anything.”
UNT point guard Chris Jones finished with four assists and moved past Deon Hunter for seventh place in school history with 265 career assists.
Lama receives national coaching honor
UNT coach Sujay Lama was named the Jim Verdieck College Coach of the Year by the Professional Tennis Registry this week.
Lama led UNT to its third Sun Belt Conference title and third NCAA tournament appearance last season.
Lama has been a member of the organization for more than 20 years. He was nominated for the honor and then selected by an awards committee.
“It’s a great, great honor,” Lama said. “I was giving a speech, and it was like my life and all the people who helped along the way flashed before my eyes.”
UNT picks up key win over Kansas State
During his career in tennis, Lama has seen several teams experience a turning point in their season.
He has a feeling UNT reached one of those points last week in a 4-3 win over Kansas State.
The No. 69 Mean Green had lost to rival Tulsa the day before and was without key junior Franziska Sprinkmeyer, who then underwent an MRI on her knee this week.
UNT responded by coming back from a point down after doubles to beat the Wildcats.
Anastasiya Shestakova came back from a set down at No. 2 singles to beat Maria Panaite and clinch the match for UNT.
“That was a huge win for us,” Lama said. “We needed something positive to happen that we could rally around.”
A win over Kansas State could be a springboard for UNT, which has no seniors and just two juniors on its roster in Sprinkmeyer and Kseniya Bardabush.
“The kids were screaming and they all ran around hugging each other,” Lama said. “There is a pride with the program now.”
Kee: Mean Green aims to extend winning streak
UNT went back to basics Tuesday, an approach that coach Tracey Kee credited with helping the Mean Green continue a winning streak that stands at 11 games heading into the Best Western/Courtyard Classic.
UNT (12-3) will face Wichita State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday before taking on McNeese State at 5 p.m. in the third of three consecutive home tournaments. The Mean Green will face McNeese at 11:30 a.m. and Wichita State at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“What we have tried to reiterate today is that we have done some good things but we are nowhere near where we need to be,” Kee said. “We need to continue to work hard. We went back to fundamentals today.”
UNT has benefited from that narrow focus throughout the early part of the season, when the Mean Green has won several close games. UNT beat Texas State 1-0 and 3-1 last week during the Texas Shootout.
“The kids are playing with a lot of energy and resilience and have been able to hold their own in tight games,” Kee said. “As coaches, that is what you like to see. I am not going to complain about the run-rule games, but you get a true assessment and look at your squad in the nail-biters.”
UNT could be in for another test this weekend. McNeese has beaten Texas A&M and Alabama this season.
“Resume-wise, they are legit,” Kee said.
Track and field
UNT aims to translate Sun Belt success to C-USA
UNT will make its debut in Conference USA in terms of competing for track championships beginning Friday at the league’s indoor meet in Birmingham, Ala.
The Mean Green will find out just how it will fit in after making the transition from the Sun Belt.
UNT coach Carl Sheffield expects that transition to be a challenge.
“Every year when we were in the Sun Belt, we looked at it [expectations based on a list of the season’s best performances by athletes in the league] and always went way beyond it,” Sheffield said. “We have a very similar team that when you line us up against people, we compete very well. The only difference is Conference USA’s level of competition is a little higher than the Sun Belt.”
The UNT women won the Sun Belt outdoor championship the last two seasons.