EDINBURG — Larry Tidwell always liked the Rio Grande Valley.
Whether he was a high school coach at Schulenburg, an assistant at Baylor or TCU, or the coach at Lamar, the Valley appealed to Tidwell.
Now, he gets the chance to embrace it.
Tidwell was officially introduced as the new women’s basketball coach at UTPA on Monday at a news conference on campus.
He signed a 4-year deal (terms were not available) and comes to Edinburg after six successful seasons with the Cardinals.
“As coaches, we look for challenges. And this is a true challenge,” Tidwell said. “And I’m going to see if I can turn one more.”
Tidwell has been a part of turn-around jobs throughout his entire career, and he’s hoping UTPA is no different. The Broncs, of course, have never had a winning season and aren’t really on the map in the women’s basketball landscape.
Athletic Director Chris King, President Robert S. Nelsen and the rest of the administration know that all too well. But that’s why they hired Tidwell.
“Larry is a fit,” King said. “We are officially on the map today in women’s basketball because of Larry Tidwell and his reputation and name throughout the state of Texas.”
Leaving Lamar wasn’t an easy decision for Tidwell. He went 128-66 there and made the postseason three different times, including the NCAA Tournament in 2010.
But the allure of coming to the Valley, taking over a program without much past history or success and changing a culture was too much to pass up. Even if some industry and coaching colleagues thought it was an odd move.
“But again, that old saying, you don’t judge a book by its cover,” Tidwell said. “You look inside, you look into past records and they haven’t won. But you look inside, there’s a nucleus here for a good team. There’s a nucleus here for a really good program. It’s just all about recruiting.”
The Broncs went 12-16 in 2012-13 under Denny Downing, who was let go two days after the season at the same time as men’s basketball coach Ryan Marks.
About a week after that, King heard from Nelsen’s wife, Jody, that Tidwell was interested in the position. The following Monday, before King could even pursue it, Tidwell called him. After they were done talking, the Broncs’ AD knew he had his guy.
“I’m pretty exhilarated,” King said. “If (there was) anybody we could hire, he is about as perfect a fit as I ever would’ve expected.”
Unlike previous coaches brought in here, Tidwell is Texas through and through.
He’s been coaching in the state since 1978 — and rather successfully, compiling a .676 winning percentage over his 32 seasons in the business.
That part of the equation is exciting to UTPA. What the school is doing, and how much it’s changed since the previous two times Tidwell applied for the job, enticed him.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be at the ground level as we go into the WAC,” Tidwell said. “And I’m very grateful of what is happening with the university, with all the stuff with the possible growth of the university and the two (Valley UT systems schools) coming together.”
UTPA will join the Western Athletic Conference on July 1.
Todd Orodenker covers UTPA Athletics for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4431 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.