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Men's basketball: Benford completes staff with Monarch

Profile image for By Brett Vito / Staff Writer
By Brett Vito / Staff Writer

North Texas head coach Tony Benford was looking for an assistant who fit a set of criteria while working his way through a list of possibilities when it came time to round out his staff over the last few weeks.

The more Benford looked at his options, the more he believed Scott Monarch was a perfect fit at UNT and deserved a second chance after his dismissal from Marquette last year.

Benford officially added Monarch to his staff Tuesday. He replaces Bart Lundy, who left to take over as the head coach at Queens, a Division II school in Charlotte, N.C.

“As a head coach, you have to get someone you are comfortable with,” Benford said. “I know Scott’s skill set. We have a great relationship, and he has a track record of recruiting really good players. He brought everything I was looking for: ties to Texas, coaching on the floor and recruiting. With our relationship, he’s someone I trust, and most importantly, he’s really good with players.”

Monarch was fired from his job as an assistant coach at Marquette on Aug. 24, when the school announced that it had found he had been untruthful after school officials discovered he committed NCAA rules violations while dealing with a recruit. The school found that Monarch provided team-issued apparel and transportation to the recruit and later misled school officials before eventually acknowledging his actions.

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Benford, who worked with Monarch at Marquette, said UNT looked into Monarch’s conduct at the school and found that the violation he committed was secondary in nature.

“We did a thorough background check with the NCAA, and they have nothing on file,” Benford said. “He used poor judgment and will be the first to admit it. He made a mistake and it cost him severely. We are fortunate to have him. I wasn’t concerned about it. I know about his integrity. He’s a great guy and will do a great job for North Texas.”

Monarch spent four years at Marquette during a 20-year coaching career that includes a six-year tenure as the head coach at Panola College — one of several stops he has made at Texas junior colleges. He also has worked at the Tyler, McLennan and Navarro community colleges.

Monarch was named the head coach at Claflin University, a Division II school in Orangeburg, S.C., on May 15, but he changed course and accepted the UNT job instead. The move brought Monarch back to the Division I level as an assistant after making what he said was a mistake that led to his dismissal at Marquette.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would have done it a lot differently,“ Monarch said. “The only thing I can say is I used poor judgment in that situation.

“I made a mistake there and have learned from it.”

Monarch will look to move on at UNT, where Benford is hoping he will be able to capitalize on his deep Texas ties, particularly in the junior college ranks. Monarch was the lead recruiter for Marquette during its pursuit of several Texas junior college standouts who ended up playing for the Golden Eagles, including Tyler Junior College guard Jimmy Butler and Howard College forward Jae Crowder.

“It is a lot easier to go down to San Jacinto because I have played them,” Monarch said. “It helps with junior college coaches if you have been a junior college coach.”

Those ties were particularly important to Benford, who is entering his second season at UNT. Eight of the players on UNT’s roster for the upcoming season are from Texas.

“Texas ties are huge,“ Benford said. “We want to take care of our home base with the Metroplex and the junior college ranks in Texas. Coach Monarch is well-respected in the state. His ties in the area will help. He knows a lot of coaches not only in the Metroplex but around the state.”

The addition of Monarch rounds out Benford’s staff, which also will include associate head coach Rob Evans, assistant coach David Anwar and director of basketball operations Jeff Luster, who had filled in as a recruiter during the July evaluation period following Lundy’s departure.

“I know Dave and Jeff well and know of coach Evans and his work,“ Monarch said. “What people don’t understand is that it is a staff. Some coaches are better at things than others. You have to blend together.”

Benford said he is confident the staff will fit together well after he added one final piece in Monarch.

“We have great balance,” Benford said. “We have coach Evans, my associate head coach, who has been in the business over 40 years and is widely respected. You look at coach Anwar and he is one of the hardest workers in college basketball. And we add coach Monarch, who has been a head coach and has great ties in the state of Texas.”