MBB: February 13 Game Highlights - North Texas vs. Old Dominion
Entering his 25th year in NCAA Division-I basketball that includes 14 postseason appearances, Tony Benford has transformed the culture of North Texas basketball with his hard-working defense-first approach, entering his fifth season with the Mean Green.
Last season, North Texas went 11-7 at the Super Pit and Benford improved to 39-27 (.601) in games played at the Pit in four seasons. He coached sophomore Jeremy Combs to a second team All-Conference selection and NABC second team All-District award. Three players finished the year scoring over 400 points in J-Mychal Reese, Deckie Johnson and Combs.
In 2014-15, NT held opponents to 68.2 points per game and only shot 42 percent from the floor, which ranks third and fifth in school history, respectively. The Mean Green finished with 14 wins, which marks the 33rd season of 14 or more wins in the 97-season history of the program. North Texas was 11-6 at the Super Pit as only six NT teams won more games since it opened in 1973-74 (42 seasons).
Benford finished his third season at North Texas with a 42-53 overall record (44.2 percent). His win percentage is just behind Pete Shands (46.5) for fourth among all NT coaches since World War II, and eighth overall. Benford's 42 wins rank ninth in Mean Green history among all coaches.
In 2012-13, North Texas broke the school record for blocked shots with 153, and the squad's defensive field goal percentage inside the 3-point arc of 44.3 was the lowest in the Sun Belt. Last season, Benford and North Texas made the jump to Conference USA and finished with 16 wins on the year, making the '13-14 squad one of just 18 teams in program history to reach that win plateau.
Before coming to North Texas, Benford served as the associate head coach at Marquette under Buzz Williams. In his four years at Marquette, Benford helped recruit and coach six All-Big East players, including 2012 Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder.
Tabbed by Basketball Times, Fox Sports and Hoop Scoop as one of the country's top assistant coaches, Benford also spent time at Nebraska (2006-08), Arizona State (1998-06) and New Mexico (1992-98) developing some of the nation's most talented players.
In his career Benford recruited and coached five NBA first-round draft picks: Ike Diogu from Garland, TX (Arizona St., '05), Charles Smith (New Mexico, '97), Kenny Thomas (New Mexico, '99), Lazar Hayward (Marquette, `10) and Jimmy Butler (Marquette, '11), as well as six econd-round picks in Eddie House (Arizona St., `00), Tommy Smith (Arizona St., '03) Jeff Pendergraph (Arizona St., `09), Jae Crowder (Marquette, '11) Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette, '11), and Tony Mitchell (North Texas, '12).
A native of Hobbs, N.M., Benford played collegiately at Texas Tech and was the catalyst for the Red Raiders Southwest Conference regular-season and tournament titles in 1985, and their 1986 SWC Tournament championship. He earned All-Southwest Conference and SWC Tournament MVP honors as a senior. The Boston Celtics selected Benford in the fourth round of the 1986 NBA Draft, and he played professionally in Holland for the 1986-87 season.
With Williams and Benford at the helm at Marquette, the Golden Eagles have reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in each of the last two years. Marquette was ranked No. 11 in the final AP poll of 2012, and ranked 31st in the country in scoring offense with an average of 75.4 points per game. MU won at least 20 games and reached the NCAA Tournament in each of Benford's four years with the program.
Before arriving at Marquette, he had spent the previous two campaigns at Nebraska under head coach Doc Sadler. The Huskers collected 37 total victories in the two seasons, highlighted by a trip to the National Invitation Tournament in 2008. The squad posted 20 wins in 2007-08, just the 12th 20-win campaign in the program's 112-year history. North Texas forward Alonzo Edwards was recruited to Nebraska by Benford prior to transferring to Denton.
Benford served on the Arizona State bench as an assistant coach for his first six years in Tempe before being named associate head coach for his last two seasons with the Sun Devils. Benford helped the Sun Devils to four postseason appearances during his tenure, including earning a spot in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament. While at ASU, Benford recruited Keith Wooden and George Odufuwa to Phoenix before the pair transferred to North Texas and went on to start a combined 143 games for the Mean Green.
In six seasons with New Mexico, Benford helped the Lobos reach five NCAA Tournament bids while winning 73.2 percent of their games (139-51 record). New Mexico picked up a pair of Western Athletic Conference tournament titles in 1993 and 1996, and a regular-season championship in 1994. During his stint with the Lobos, Benford coached the top four scorers in program history, including all-time leading scorer in Kenny Thomas.
As a prep all-star, Benford was a Converse All-American and the New Mexico Player of the Year after pouring in 27.5 points per game as a senior at Hobbs High School. He led Hobbs to the state title in his final season, earning MVP honors of the state championship tournament after posting 29 points in the title game.