The Port Arthur News
The worst kept secret around Lamar University is that Tic Price is going to be named the school’s next head basketball coach. All that’s up in the air is when it’s going to happen.
Port Arthur News sources thought the hiring would be announced Monday, so Price could amp up recruiting efforts that began when he was named interim coach on Feb. 16. Price took over for the fired Pat Knight, who still had two plus years remaining on a contract that paid him $200,000 a year.
“Tic is going to get the job,” said one LU insider. “It was his to lose from the day he was named interim coach, and everybody was impressed with what they saw from him over the last three weeks. That team was dead when he took over. He did an amazing job of getting them to play hard in those final five games.
“He took over a bad basketball team and had them competitive in every game. It’s pretty remarkable when you consider the skill level and the limitations. Tic won only one game, but they had a great shot against Sam Houston State. Nobody beat them by more than nine points. Those kids really responded to him.”
Price figured to have the inside track because of Lamar’s financial bind from having to pay off Knight. A Lamar assistant under Steve Roccaforte until Roccaforte’s firing three years ago, he was still on the school’s payroll as interim assistant vice president for student engagement until replacing Knight.
By making him head coach, Lamar won’t be out much in the way of additional salary.
“The point to be made,” said the source, “is that Tic won’t be named just because he’ll save them quite a bit in salary. He’s a good coach and he proved it during these last five games. You couldn’t put a guy in a much tougher situation than he was thrown into.
“On top of that, he’s well liked, including by some of the school’s financial heavy hitters. There were some folks who came out Saturday night that seldom attend basketball games. They were there to show their support for Tic, and they were seen by people who needed to see them. He will be a popular choice.”
Why Lamar isn’t moving quicker isn’t clear. A possible reason is AD Jason Henderson or president Dr. Ken Evans wanted to further vet Price over an incident with a female graduate student that led to his firing at Memphis in 1999. Previous LU president Dr. Jimmy Simmons told The News several years ago that he did extensive vetting on Price before he was named to Roccaforte’s staff.
Price has worked as an assistant or head coach at seven Division 1 schools, including Lamar. He was a head coach at New Orleans, where he had great success from 1994 through 1997, Memphis and McNeese State. His New Orleans teams went 20-11, 21-9 and 22-7, claimed two Sun Belt Conference titles and one tournament championship. The Privateers played in the NCAA once and the NIT once.
Overall, Price’s record as a head coach is 167-122. He was 30-27 at Memphis and 74-68 at McNeese State. He was the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year in 1997 and the Southland Coach of the Year in 2002. He was also the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Louisiana College Coach of the Year in ‘96, ‘97 and ‘02.
“Tic’s an excellent coach and a hard worker,” said a rival coach who asked that his name not be used. “I understand why Lamar would hire him, given the current situation. How much success he has will be determined by how well he can crack the AAU scene in Houston for recruits. Lamar has to be able to recruit in Texas, especially the Houston area. What they did under Knight doesn’t make sense.
“The AAU coaches can make you or break you. In most cases, they have much more influence on where a kid goes than the high school coaches. All the good players from the Golden Triangle play AAU basketball in Houston. Tic knows the score on that. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort and he’s certainly not starting from a position of strength.”
Price, in the aftermath of Saturday’s night season finale, said he had not yet discussed the future with school officials and didn’t know what the future held. The News was unable to reach him for comment Monday.