The season started in a rather dominating performance from the UTEP Miners, 100-50 over LA College, winning a game handily, as they should. Then an 0-6 slide, losing to rival New Mexico State twice in the first month of the season… more specifically twice in five days! In between those two games came a six point loss to Lamar, a loss so bad Coach Tim Floyd took his ball and went home, handing the reigns of the UTEP Miners Basketball program in the hands of long time assistant, Phil Johnson.
“This was Tim Floyd’s way of giving Phil Johnson a chance to prove himself. He is basically giving him 3.5 months to try and turn it around and make this team an NCAA Tournament Team.” – Steve Kaplowitz 30 November 2017
When Tim Floyd retired, in the midst of a 5 game slip, the future seemed to be bright for Johnson who lead the team to a 5-2 record in his first 7 games. However the second 6 game losing skid, broken only by a last second shot to beat Charlotte and losing 11 of 13 has UTEP fans and supporters upset and feeling the same way as last year with the 0-12 skid mid season.
Last season we saw UTEP straighten it out and win 15-18 and fall just short of a NCAA Tournament appearance. However that was last year and this is now. There is no way UTEP will straighten out the ship and for the 23rd time in 28 years (16th missed in 19 years post Haskins), the UTEP Miners will be on the outside looking in.
“Had (Tim Floyd) walked away last year, There was no way Phil Johnson would have gotten a crack at the job.”
In the last few months the UTEP faithful have embraced the #EPMAD mindset brought on by UTEP’s new AD Jim Senter. As has been the mindset from the day former AD Bob Stull stepped down, the connections to the old regime have all but been severed.
There in-lies the issue with UTEP’s Mens Basketball program. Yes this is Johnson’s first season running the program for UTEP, however he is a relic of the prior coaching staff, the same staff that for seven seasons had lost out on an NCAA Tournament appearance. The same staff that has seen recruit after recruit walk out and lost the support of the fan base year after year. Phil Johnson is a victim of circumstance. He is a good person and I wish him no ill will, however it is time for UTEP to continue the trend of moving on forgetting the past connections and embracing the future. So what is it that UTEP should do?
It’s time for UTEP to show the fans they’re listening. Johnson is not the answer for UTEP and needs to go. The Miners should look for a head coach who is in a bad situation. Establish what UTEP will be, since there has been an identity crisis with the school after losing out on recruits. Are we a “One and Done” school, or are we a program that will bring in student athletes and visit the tournament from time to time.
As NCAA Men’s basketball has changed, UTEP has not, it is time to embrace a young coach who can recruit and bring an exciting style of play to UTEP. Therefore UTEP, in my mind, NEEDS to target Shaka Smart. The fire that comes with being the head coach in Austin is somethin gthat (for some unknown reason) has higher expectations, where as UTEP, is a familiar position for Smart.
As a Mid Major, UTEP would do well with the recruits Smart could bring and with his time at UT coming to an end, it seems he might be there for the picking.
UTEP needs to play the game, and they need to play it Smart.