As Lane Lord went through the process of interviewing for the head women’s basketball coach opening at UTRGV, he saw an athletics program on the rise.
Departing coach Larry Tidwell had taken a team that went 30 years without a winning season and turned it into a perennial WAC contender, including three consecutive winning campaigns.
Lord is familiar with that type of building process. During his 11-year tenure at Division II Pittsburg State, Lord compiled a 231-102 record, went to five NCAA Division II National Tournaments in his last seven years and reached the tournament’s Elite Eight for the first two times in program history.
On Monday, UTRGV athletics director Chris King tabbed Lord to fill UTRGV’s head coaching vacancy. Lord said he hopes to help the department continue its upward trajectory.
“I just like their vision of the program,” Lord said. “They’ve done so much in a short period of time. The university is on the rise. That really intrigued me. I really fell in love with the staff and their vision of what they want to have this athletic program become.”
The post at UTRGV will be the first at the Division I level for 47-year-old Lord. He previously coached three years at Barton Community College in Kansas and nine years at Wichita Heights High School.
During his run at Pittsburg State, Lord was named the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Coach of the Year five times and the NCAA Regional Coach of the Year three times.
“We set out and hired one of the most successful head coaches in college basketball over the past decade to lead our women’s basketball program,” King said in a release. “His competitive success, vision, and values make him an exact fit for the next chapter of our women’s basketball program and our goals of winning WAC championships and participating in NCAA March Madness.”
Lord said landing a Division I job had been a goal since he first broke into college coaching in 2004. Originally from Waco, he said he had long envisioned getting back to Texas, and the opportunity to find a Division I job in the state was a bonus.
Though he will be coaching at the Division I level for the first time, he said he faced 21 Division I schools during his run at Pittsburg State. He added that he feels the MIAA is similar to a low- or mid-major conference.
“That league has prepared me as a coach and me as a recruiter to be successful at this level,” Lord said.
Tidwell announced his resignation on April 21, leaving to become an assistant coach at Texas Tech. Tidwell led UTRGV to its first three postseason appearances during his five-year tenure, with two WBI trips and a WNIT berth. His teams set 117 program records and tied 83 others, and he holds the program’s all-time record for wins (85) and winning percentage (.531).
“What we want to do is just build on what he’s done and take it one step further,” Lord said. “Get to the NCAA Tournament and win games. … We want to win championships, and that’s the bottom line.”
Lord said the foundation Tidwell set includes a talented group of current players who must now be “re-recruited.” Lord said he also has three or four scholarships to fill before the fall, adding that strong recruiting was the key to his run at Pittsburg State and will be critical to helping UTRGV continue to build forward after a 14-16 campaign last season.
“The foundation of the program (at Pittsburg State) to sustain success the last seven or eight years was signing high school kids from winning programs, and that’s what we want to do at UTRGV,” Lord said. “We’re going to mix in a transfer here and there, but the foundation is built on four- or five-year players, and that’s what we really want to accomplish here.”