UTA hires Ogden as new basketball coach

Chris Ogden

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just over a week after releasing Scott Cross, the best coach in the history of its program, the University of Texas – Arlington announced Chris Ogden as his replacement.

School officials are calling it a new era of UTA men’s basketball. Word on the street is Athletic Director Jim Baker wants the school to be the next Gonzaga.

Ogden, 37, will be the eighth coach in the program’s history and will be making his head coaching debut after working as a long-time assistant in the Southeast Conference and Big 12 Conference. Most recently, he helped the Texas Tech Red Raiders reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national champion Villanova.

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A native of Seminole, Texas, Ogden played for head coach Rick Barnes and served on his staff for 13 seasons at both the University of Texas and the University of Tennessee. He spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach under head coach Chris Beard at Texas Tech.

“Starting with his playing days as a youth in Seminole, Chris has been a winner,” said Baker. “In high school, he was the Texas player of the year and led his team to a state championship game. As a player in college, he went to four straight NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four. As a coach, he has been to numerous NCAA Tournaments, recruited some of the country’s top classes and developed several NBA first-round draft picks.

“I look forward to Chris bringing his experience to UTA and helping us continue to set high expectations for our athletics program and guide our men’s basketball team to greater heights.”

During his 15 years on the basketball staffs at Texas, Tennessee and Texas Tech, he helped compile a 346-173 record for a .667 winning percentage. In 10 seasons as a full-time assistant coach he went 215-130 and registered a total of 32 victories over Associated Press top-25 ranked teams. He helped lead three programs to 11 total NCAA Tournament appearances, including three regional finals.

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Indeed, those are impressive credentials. And he could take UTA to the next level. While Cross’ dismissal remains controversial, Ogden does have to be registered as a solid hire by the school.

Meanwhile, the line should form to the left for Cross. He did more in a dozen seasons coaching the Mavericks than any coach had done in the previous five decades, including the program’s lone NCAA Tournament berth in 2008. He served his alma mater faithfully for 24 straight years, four as a player and eight as an assistant before taking over the helm.

Ogden has his work cut out for him. Cross posted the five – count them, five – best records in the history of UTA men’s basketball, including a 21-13 record this past season that included reaching the finals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. For some insane reason the Mavericks were ignored in postseason selections, despite having reached the third round of the National Invitation Tournament in 2017.

In fact, Cross’ team posted the best record in UTA history in the 2016-17 season, finishing 27-9. They won the regular season of the Sun Belt Conference, but again were passed over for an NCAA selection.

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Word is that Ogden has already started putting together his staff, and it includes Trinity Valley Community College Coach Hunter Jenkins, whose program is among the top junior college programs in the nation. One has to wonder if this means highly touted Cardinals point guard Wendell Mitchell, considered by many the top junior college player at his position in the country, will follow his coach to Arlington.

“I am extremely honored to serve as the head men’s basketball coach at UT Arlington,” said Ogden. “Having lived in Texas nearly my entire life, I have dreamed of having the opportunity to lead a program in my home state. UTA has an excellent reputation as a world-class institution in the dynamic Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

“I look forward to continuing to build on the program Coach Scott Cross developed. We will operate this program in a manner that our supporters, students and the administration expects – with class, hard work and success on and off the court.”

The program moves on, as does Cross, and here’s hoping both are successful, as will probably be the case. Ogden certainly brings the credentials to make Mavericks faithful optimistic.