by BRAD ROLLINS
Texas State officials were more exuberant — more so even than their job descriptions demand at institutional celebrations — on Thursday as they announced Danny Kaspar as the new men’s basketball coach at a hastily called press conference that nonetheless was packed with press.
Kaspar will coach the Bobcats after 13 years at Stephen F. Austin where he compiled a 246-193 record. He is 438-188 during his 21-year career as a head coach. His teams won more games in the past six years than any coach in Texas, Texas State athletics director Larry Teis said.
“You’ve got to look at all that and say, ‘Man, the guy can flat out coach,’” Teis said. “Everything was just solid. It was just too hard to pass up.”
Teis wasted little time — and spared no expense — in landing the new coach. Under the five-year contract signed on Thursday, Kaspar will earn an annual base salary of $270,000 plus as much as $100,000 in other compensation and incentives each year. Doug Davalos, whose departure was announced 17 days ago, made about $120,000 each of his last three years at Texas State.
After the mid-afternoon press conference, Kaspar was off to catch a flight to the NCAA Tournament Final Four in Atlanta where he will accept the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ District 24 Coach of the Year award on Friday. He is also a finalist for the Hugh Durham Award for the association’s top mid-major coach of the year.
This year, the Lumberjacks finished 27-5, the fourth best record in the country for any college basketball team at any level. Under Kaspar, the team fell just short of a NCAA tournament berth after losing road games to the likes of Texas A&M, Northwestern State (twice) and Stanford.
Under Kaspar, the Lumberjacks won 19 of its last 22 encounters with the Bobcats. Said Teis, “That kind of weighed in my head a little bit too. I get so sick of watching him beat us all the time. And now I’m glad he’s going to be in maroon and gold on our bench.”
Teis announced March 19 that the university would not renew Doug Davalos’ contract after seven consecutive losing teams and a 1-9 record in the WAC this past season.
Davalos’s players fared better academically than they did on the court; under his leadership, the team’s APR score increase from a low of 847 to 960 out of 1,000 points.
Here’s the statement from Texas State athletics spokesperson Rick Poulter:
“In the end the relationships with all the high school coaches in Texas to the other AAU coaches and everyone in general was what we were really looking for,” said Athletics Director Larry Teis. “We talked to former players, mainly Jeff Foster who we relied on to help us look at some candidates. Jeff did a great job, and his number one pick was Danny Kaspar. Gregg Popovich from the San Antonio Spurs is very high on Danny and his coaching abilities, which really helped. In the end, in the state of Texas, nobody has won more games in the last six years than Danny Kaspar.
Kaspar was named the 2012-13 Southland Conference Coach of the Year after leading SFA to a 27-5 overall record, its third Southland Conference championship in the last six years and a berth to the NIT. It marks the second time he was named SLC Coach of the Year. He also earned the honor in 2007-08.
I’m very excited to be given this opportunity to coach the men’s basketball program at Texas State,” said Kaspar. “It’s got great potential and I’ve always thought of it as a place that can produce frequent championships for someone who is willing to work hard and put a lot of effort in the job.
He will be presented the NABC District 24 Coach of the Year on Friday at the NCAA Final Four and is a finalist for the Hugh Durham Award as the nation’s top Mid-Major head coach.
Stephen F. Austin’s winning percentage of 84.4 percent this season is fourth among NCAA Division I teams entering the Final Four. The Lumberjacks’ 27 wins included victories over teams from the Big XII (Oklahoma), Big West (Long Beach State), Conference USA (Tulsa), and Sun Belt Conference (Florida International).
SFA leads the nation in scoring defense after allowing just 51.2 points per game. The Lumberjacks also were the best in the nation in scoring defense in 2010-11 with 56.7 points per game and had the third-best average in 2011-12 with 54.4.
This season, SFA ranks seventh in field goal percentage defense with 38.0 percent and 18th in three-point field goal percentage defense.
Offensively, SFA ranks 29th in field goal percentage with 46.8 percent and is among the top 24 teams in assists. The Lumberjacks are sixth in scoring margin after winning games by an average of 13.6 points and are among the top 13 teams in rebounding margin with a 6.9 advantage.
Kaspar led SFA to back-to-back Southland Conference championships in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
SFA finished the 2007-08 season with a 26-6 record, marking the best mark in the school’s 25-year history as NCAA Division I program and earned the team a berth to the NIT.
The 2007-08 league title was the Lumberjacks’ first-ever Southland Conference championship and marked the first league title for the program since SFA won the Gulf Star Conference in the 1986-87 season, under Harry Miller, one of Kaspar’s mentors.
In 2008-09, Kaspar led SFA to the SLC Tournament championship to earn the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth in school history after winning its second consecutive SLC title with a 13-3 league record. Overall, the Lumberjacks compiled a 24-7 record.
During his tenure at SFA, Kaspar turned the Lumberjack program from an also-ran in the Southland Conference to one of the league’s most consistent winners. He guided SFA to the SLC Tournament in nine of his 13 seasons as coach, including five trips to the tournament championship game.
The program Kaspar leaves behind at SFA is very different from the one he inherited. During the two seasons prior his arrival, the Lumberjacks had just four and six wins, respectively. Beginning in his second season, the ‘Jacks became a competitive force in the SLC.
That year, SFA finished the regular season with a 13-14 record in the regular season, was fifth in the SLC standings with a 10-10 league record and qualified for the SLC tournament for the first time in five years. The fifth-place finish was the best finish in league standings since the 1996-97 campaign.
The following year, the Lumberjacks posted their first 20-win season since 1986-87 with a 21-8 overall record and a 16-4 league mark to finish in second place. The team advanced to the finals of the SLC Tournament, both firsts since SFA had joined the SLC.
In the 2003-04 campaign, the Lumberjacks once again won 21 games and made their second straight SLC tournament finals appearance. The second straight 20-plus-win season marked the first time since the mid-1980s the Lumberjacks have put together two straight seasons with 20 or more wins.
SFA posted a 17-12 mark in 2005-06, including a 9-7 fourth-place finish in Southland Conference play. The Lumberjacks entered the SLC Tournament as the No. 4 seed and defeated McNeese State, 72-70, in the first round, advancing to the semifinals for the third time in four years.
Kaspar served as an assistant coach at SFA under Miller from 1983 through the 1986 seasons. During his three seasons as an assistant, the Lumberjacks recorded two 20-win seasons, won 16 games in the other season, and never finished lower than third in the conference.
A 1978 graduate of the University of North Texas, Kaspar is no stranger to winning. He spent nine seasons as the head coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. In his tenure, Incarnate Word posted an overall record of 219-52, which was the best record for any four-year Texas institution during the 1990s. In 1999, The Sporting News named him National Small College Coach of the Year.
His teams at Incarnate Word posted nine straight 20-win seasons, including five seasons where his teams won 25 or more games in a single campaign. Kaspar’s Incarnate Word teams also won or shared five regular season conference titles as well as four conference tournament titles. He was tabbed the Heart of Texas Conference Coach of the Year four times during that span.
Prior to becoming a head coach, Kaspar served as an assistant for some of the legends of college basketball coaching. In addition to working under Miller, he also was on the staffs of Billy Tubbs, Gene Iba and Dr. Gerald Stockton.
During his one season with Tubbs at Lamar, the Cardinals won the Southland Conference title and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. In 31 years as a collegiate coach, Kaspar has only been associated with six teams with losing records. In two of those seasons, the teams were one win away from .500 records or better. Kaspar and his wife, Deborah, have a daughter, Nicole, who is a student at Texas State.
Danny Kaspar in action. PHOTO VIA SPOKEO
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Davalos presided over 11 straight non-winning seasons as the Bobcat’s men’s basketball head coach. The Bobcats have not had a winning season in 11 years but Davalos was coach for only seven of them. As Bill Peterson noted in an earlier story, the Bobcats were 3-24 the year before he took over and were faring even worse academically.