After resurrecting a Fresno State basketball program that had slipped into a bleak state and this season leading the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, coach Rodney Terry had opportunities to explore a tepid national job market and did.
But on Friday he canceled an interview with Alabama-Birmingham at the Final Four in Houston to focus on continuing his current rebuild, along with discussions with athletic director Jim Bartko on an extension and program improvements.
I think we’ve started something here that really has a chance to be special and we want to continue to try to sustain it.
Fresno State basketball coach Rodney Terry
“Like I told our administration, I just really want to be here,” said Terry, who also had contact with Saint Louis before it hired former Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford.
“I think we’ve started something here that really has a chance to be special and we want to continue to try to sustain it. We’re trying to work through some things and hopefully get some things done. Comparing the playing field with the so-called top four schools in our conference, we need to be somewhere in the ballpark where we can do what you have to do year in and year out. But this is where I want to be – being in Fresno, I think we have a great situation going.”
Fresno State has improved its record in the Mountain West every year under Terry – from 5-11 to 9-9 to 10-8 to this season’s 13-5 – but the Bulldogs lag behind their conference rivals in basketball spending. Bartko has said there needs to be a larger pool to schedule nonconference opponents at Save Mart Center; there also are recruiting and travel considerations, among other infrastructure areas; and the salaries for Terry and his staff rank in the bottom half of the conference.
Alabama-Birmingham, which is seeking a replacement for Jerod Haase, who moved up to Stanford, spends about $1.5 million more per year on basketball than Fresno State. The Blazers, according to the Equity in Athletics database, reported basketball expenses of $3,952,661 in 2014-15 while Fresno State was at $2,479,857.
Haase had a six-year contract that was worth $1 million per year. Terry received a bump in January to $411,216 in an extension that runs through 2019, but the Fresno State AD said it is no better than seventh or eighth in the conference.
Terry also ranked 47th among 61 coaches whose teams reached the NCAA Tournament, according to figures compiled by USA Today (private schools are not required to provide salary information). Stony Brook, Middle Tennessee State and Iona are among the schools that are paying coaches more than Terry receives at Fresno State.
Terry and Bartko will continue discussions Tuesday when the coach returns from the Final Four.
We’re confident that he’s going to stay and we’ve had some initial conversations. … We’ll continue those conversations and hopefully lock him in.
Bulldogs athletic director Jim Bartko on the prospects of signing Terry to a new extension
“We’re confident that he’s going to stay and we’ve had some initial conversations before he left for the Final Four, and when he gets back on Tuesday we’ll continue those conversations and hopefully lock him in,” Bartko said.
“He’s two years into a five-year deal – we’ll look at it, evaluate it and do what we can and hopefully add more years to it. He has done a great job in his five years to build this place up the right way. Our goal is to have all of our coaches up in the top five or six in the league, and obviously Rodney and his staff were seven or eight. ”
Terry led the Bulldogs to a 25-10 record this year, is 85-84 in five seasons and has a solid nucleus returning from his first NCAA Tournament team, including forwards Karachi Edo, Cullen Russo and Paul Watson.
“I think we can be really good again next year,” Terry said. “I like my team. I like what we’ve built to this point right now and I think it’s something that we can sustain. Hopefully we can work some things out and get some things continuing to move in the right direction.
“We’ve started something really good here and we just want to keep it moving.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada