Claunch and four assistants will lead UTSA basketball’s rebuild

Austin Claunch was introduced at the new UTSA head men's basketball coach at a public news conference on Thursday, April 11, 2024. - Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos introduces men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch to the media Thursday at the Park West Fieldhouse. – Photo by Joe Alexander

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch, in his first face-to-face meeting with the San Antonio media, on Thursday named his four-man staff to include Trevor DeLoach, Nick Bowman, Joseph Jones and Joey Brooks.

Together, the 34-year-old Claunch and his team of assistants will start to rebuild a program that has lost more than 20 games in each of the last three seasons.

“The vision is to cut down the nets in the Convo,” said Claunch, who won 90 games and two Southland Conference titles in a five-year run as head coach at Nicholls State (La.) through the 2022-23 season.

This past season, Claunch worked as an assistant at Alabama.

UTSA hired him on March 17 after the Crimson Tide’s trip to the Southeastern Conference tournament. The plan called for him to remain at Alabama to fulfill his duties until the team completed its run in the NCAA tournament.

The ride for Alabama took Claunch all the way to the Final Four in Arizona, where the Tide lost in the NCAA semifinals last Saturday.

By Tuesday, he was in San Antonio, throwing out the first pitch at a Roadrunners softball game. On Thursday afternoon, Claunch arrived for a introductory news conference that had the feel of a pep rally at times.

During his remarks to reporters, Claunch named his four UTSA assistants. Here they are:

Austin Claunch was introduced at the new UTSA head men's basketball coach at a public news conference on Thursday, April 11, 2024. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Austin Claunch met the media on Thursday and announced a four-man coaching staff. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Trevor DeLoach — Spent the past three seasons at Jacksonville (Fla.) University under head coach Jordan Mincy. Before Jacksonville, he worked under Claunch as associate head coach at Nicholls State (La.) DeLoach played at North Carolina-Wilmington, where he was team captain for three seasons.

Nick Bowman — Worked last season as the lead assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of New Orleans under head coach Mark Slessinger. Bowman also worked under Claunch at Nicholls. He was with Claunch all five seasons.

Joseph Jones — Jones is the reigning coach of the year in the Western Athletic Conference. He helped guide Tarleton State University to a 25-win season. Last fall, he entered his fourth season as an assistant under head coach Billy Gillispie. But after four games, Gillispie had to step away from the team to deal with health issues, and Jones took over as interim coach. Jones, formerly one of Gillispie’s premier players at Texas A&M, led Tarleton to the WAC semifinals and later to the CIT Semifinals. Tarleton recently extended Gillispie’s contract through the 2025-26 season.

Joey Brooks — Brooks and Claunch were high school teammates at Strake Jesuit Preparatory in Houston. Brooks later went on to play 80 games in three seasons for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Last season, he worked as an assistant at Coastal Carolina. Brooks has also worked at Notre Dame, Purdue, Cal State Fullerton and at Nicholls State.

Claunch expressed confidence in the new staff.

“First and foremost, they’re guys you can trust. And (they’re) going to care about the student-athletes, and care about the school and the community,” the coach said. “These guys aren’t going to be strangers. You’re going to see them at events. You’re going to see them at other sporting events …

“They’re people that I trust. They’re people that I know care about me, and immediately it’s got to start with that. When the staff doesn’t have the camaraderie, players can sense that. So you got to build a staff of guys that are on one accord, and working toward the same thing.”

Claunch and staff will work in coming weeks on the roster for the 2024-25 season. First, they’ll meet with players from last year’s squad starting Friday. By next week, the coaches hope to start hosting some recruits.

The coach will rely heavily on DeLoach, Bowman, Jones and Brooks to help with the rebuild.

“Obviously, recruiting is going to be imperative,” Claunch said. “We’ve got to be able to recruit Texas. But then we’ve also got to get in the portal and get guys from there. Got to have guys (on the coaching staff) who have experienced winning, which they all do at different levels.”


It’s been a hectic three weeks for Claunch since UTSA hired him. But, fun, as well.

As his new job in San Antonio beckoned, he also remained committed fully to working with the Crimson Tide until the end of their postseason run. In that regard, the Tide just kept winning and made it all the way to the NCAA Final Four. Alabama was eliminated by eventual champion Connecticut in the NCAA semifinals last Saturday.

The coach said it wasn’t that difficult to balance the two jobs simultaneously because he was so excited to work hard at both of them.

“Sometimes when you’ve got two things and you don’t want to do either one, you just want to sleep all day,” he said. “This was easy to get up and get to work and maybe go on less sleep because I was so excited and anxious to get here and get to work, and obviously within the past few weeks we’ve started doing that remotely and started to turn the tires (with the UTSA program) a little bit.

Carlton Linguard Jr. Temple beat UTSA 84-82 in the Roadrunners' final home game of the men's basketball season on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

Will 7-foot forward Carlton Linguard Jr. return to play for the Roadrunners? Linguard, formerly of Stevens High School in San Antonio, averaged 9.4 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. – File photo by Joe Alexander

“But then with Alabama, and the NCAA tournament — it was my first one — (an) incredible (feeling). I was going to experience everything that came with that. And that was long nights of scouts, and watching games and (talking) on the phone.”

Claunch marveled at the Crimson Tide’s togetherness and how they made it all happen.

“I’m not sure anyone really expected us to be in Phoenix,” he said. “We just came together, and round by round, just kept pushing. It was an incredible couple of weeks. I enjoyed every moment of it. But I am beyond excited to be sitting here in San Antonio now and working.”

Claunch said he “kinda sorta” tried to do some recruiting for the Roadrunners while he was handling his duties for the Tide during the tournament.

“I’ll say this,” he said. “The (transfer) portal is crazy right now. (But), first of all, the most important recruits are the guys in your program. I got to sit down with these guys and talk about our vision and how each of them fit within our style and what we do. (Also) their expectations. And kind of sort through all that.

“One thing I’ve learned in recruiting — you want to move fast, but you don’t want to rush. I mean, we want to get guys on campus next week, and kind of start having visits in that regard. But let’s identify the guys that we love and (guys) that fit with what we want to do, and when we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Roster rebuild looms

As expected, multiple players from last year’s UTSA team hit the transfer portal, including guards Jordan Ivy-Curry and Adante’ Holiman, who have already announced their commitments on social media to play elsewhere.

Ivy-Curry, UTSA’s leading scorer last season, has indicated he will go to Virginia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Holiman is headed for Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt, a move that was confirmed by the player’s father earlier this week.

Others who reportedly have entered the portal include point guard Christian Tucker, the assist leader in the American Athletic Conference, and forwards Trey Edmonds, Massal Diouf and Chandler Cuthrell.

Edmonds attended the news conference and confirmed that he is in the portal. He said he is weighing his options.

PJ Carter. UTSA men's basketball lost to Army 63-53 on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, at the Convocation Center. - Photo by Joe Alexander

PJ Carter averaged 9.5 points and shot 40 percent from three-point range last season. He came on strong at the end with 16 three pointers in his last four games. – File photo by Joe Alexander

Scholarship players not in the portal who might be the most likely to return would be 7-foot center Carlton Linguard Jr., guard P.J. Carter, guard-forward Justin Thomas and possibly guard-forward Dre Fuller Jr.

Both Carter and Linguard can shoot the three. In addition, Linguard is also a rebounder and a rim protector. Fuller and Thomas, long and rangy wing players, might fit well into the coach’s plan to play aggressive defense and force turnovers.

Earlier in the day Thursday, Fuller said he’d like to return for an extra season, but that he didn’t know what he would do until he talked to the new coaches. The same is likely true for Thomas, who sat out as a redshirt last season.

A native of Baton Rouge, La., the 6-foot-7 Thomas might be UTSA’s most talented player. He averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game in 2022-23 at Milwaukee in the Horizon League.

Other players on the UTSA roster who apparently are not in the portal at the moment are guards Nazar Mahmoud, Blessing Adesipe, Juan Reyna and Josh Reid. Both Reyna and Reid are walk-ons and are not on scholarship.

Adesipe said it’s been an emotional time since the Roadrunners elected on March 14 not to renew former coach Steve Henson’s contract.

“Obviously, I got recruited by Henson and his staff,” said Adesipe, who sat out the season as a redshirt. “I built a connection with them. Being a transfer here and only being here for a couple of months, and now having to rotate and go into another set of coaches, is tough.”

Adesipe showcased significant athleticism and ability to play at the Division I level during in-season workouts, which were all open to the media. Now, he needs to prove it to a coaching staff that didn’t recruit him.

“It’s like basically getting a new job or getting a new boss,” he said. “You don’t know what they want or what their expectations are. I’m coming into this with an open mind, trying to stay in shape and stay ready for whatever Austin wants me to do. Obviously excited to see what he’s bringing in.”

Reyna, a San Antonio native who played in high school at Antonian, also sat out the year as a redshirt. He said he wants to play for the Roadrunners next season. But he said he’d also like to be offered a scholarship. “I feel like I’m a scholarship player,” he said.

Austin Claunch delivers a strike in his first pitch at UTSA

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

On his first pitch at UTSA, new men’s basketball Austin Claunch threw a strike.

It came on a hot and muggy Tuesday afternoon in a ceremonial sequence just before the Baylor Bears played the Roadrunners in softball. The 34-year-old Claunch toed the circle and threw under-handed, just as they do in the women’s fast pitch game. His left-handed offering was true, and it appeared to be in the zone on the inside corner.

New UTSA men's basketball coach Austin Claunch was at the Roadrunners softball game on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field to throw out the first pitch. - Photo by Joe Alexander

New UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch completed his duties as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama on Saturday when the Crimson Tide lost in the Final Four to the eventual champion Connecticut Huskies. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Claunch, who grew up in Houston, is in town fresh off a trip to the NCAA Final Four.

He worked for the past season as an assistant coach in the resurgent basketball program at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide, under head coach Nate Oats, marched all the way to the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., where they lost in the NCAA semifinals Saturday to the UConn Huskies.

The Huskies beat the Tide 86-72 and then polished off the Purdue Boilermakers in Monday night’s NCAA title game.

At the end of UTSA’s season in March, the university elected not to renew Steve Henson’s contract, setting the stage for a new head coach to come in and take charge.

Four days after the Roadrunners were eliminated in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament, the university announced on March 17 that it had hired Claunch.

As one of the youngest Division I coaches in the nation, Claunch led the Nicholls State (La.) Colonels to 90 victories in five seasons and a couple of Southland Conference regular-season titles.

Claunch is expected to meet the media Thursday afternoon.

New UTSA men's basketball coach Austin Claunch was at the Roadrunners softball game on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at Roadrunner Field to throw out the first pitch. - Photo by Joe Alexander

New UTSA men’s basketball coach Austin Claunch showed his stuff Tuesday afternoon by throwing out the first pitch. And, yes, he is a lefthander. – Photo by Joe Alexander

UTSA basketball job ‘a dream come true’ for Austin Claunch

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The University of Alabama men’s basketball program has made a new fan in San Antonio. It’s Lisa Campos, the athletic director at UTSA.

As Campos on Sunday announced the hiring of 34-year-old Alabama assistant Austin Claunch as the next head coach of the Roadrunners, the plan for the coming weeks came into sharper focus.

Claunch will continue to work with the Crimson Tide for as long as they can stay alive in the NCAA tournament. Afterward, he will report to work in San Antonio.

Fourth-seeded Alabama opens play on Friday against No. 13 Charleston in an NCAA West Regional Round of 64 game at Spokane, Wash.

“There’s some positive pressure,” Campos said in a Zoom news conference. “We want him to go as far as he can with Alabama because that’s great for UTSA, as well. So we’ll be rooting. We’ll be Roll Tide fans here in the tournament.

“But, really, can’t wait for him to be in San Antonio, for ya’ll to meet him and feel his energy in person.”

Claunch, who talked to reporters on Zoom from Alabama, laid out some of his plans for the Roadrunners and admitted to feeling a rush of gratification.

“Honestly, what an incredible few days it’s been for me,” he said. “It truly is a dream come true.”

The whirlwind started last Thursday when it was announced that Steve Henson would not return as coach. That his contract, which expires on March 31, would not be renewed. That his eight-year tenure with a 110-144 record was over.

Campos said she started work on the search for the new coach almost immediately. In fact, she called Claunch later that day. It took basically 72 hours for the two sides to agree on a five-year deal worth $550,000 annually.

“Real excited for Austin,” Campos said. “He checks all the boxes that we’re looking for. He’s got Division I head coaching experience. He’s had success and has been around successful programs. He knows what (success) looks like.”

As evidenced by his first meeting with the San Antonio media, Claunch also showed off a personal touch that likely will go a long way in South Texas.

After each reporter announced their name and affiliation and then asked questions, the new UTSA coach addressed each one of them by their first names.

Claunch also revealed a disarming sense of humor.

In one give-and-take, the coach was asked what he most wanted to do after the tournament, after he arrived in San Antonio and settled into his new role. Claunch said he just wanted to meet his players, the athletic staff, the school administration.

Also, the students.

“I’m a big believer in being a team player,” he said. “You will see me at every other sporting event (on campus). You’ll see me just walking around campus, talking to people. You know, sometimes it’s hard for me to shut up. I love just getting to know people.”

Claunch, who was born in Argentina, grew up in Houston and attended Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. After playing basketball in high school, he moved on to play four years for Division III Emory University in Atlanta.

Almost immediately after he left school, his star started to rise in college basketball coaching circles. He worked at George Mason and at Clemson and then took an assistant’s job at Nicholls State in tiny Thibodaux, La., south and west of New Orleans.

At Nicholls, Claunch initially worked two years as Richie Riley’s assistant, once helping the Colonels win the 2018 Southland Conference regular-season title.

When Riley left for South Alabama after the season, the young assistant moved up and, at age 28, took over the Colonels’ program as head coach. He would win back-to-back Southland Conference regular-season titles (2021 and 2022) and would post a 90-61 record in five seasons.

Claunch traced his Nicholls teams’ success to relationships he built with his players, a task that may have been easier to accomplish because of his age.

“I really just want to get to know these guys and build authentic relationships with them, which is sort of my strength, building relationships,” he said. “As a young head coach, when I took the job (at Nicholls), I didn’t have a ton of experience. I believe we won because we built those true, trustworthy relationships.”

Claunch left Nicholls last spring to join Nate Oats’ staff at Alabama.

“Austin is one of the hardest working guys in the business,” Oats said in a statement. “His work as a head coach at Nicholls was unbelievable, with one of the lowest budgets in the country.”

Clemson coach Brad Brownell, also in a statement, emphasized his former staffer’s communication skills and personal touch.

“People enjoy being around Austin,” Brownell said. “He’s a fun guy. He’s also very bright and knows how to get his message across if there’s work to be done. He can handle his business, but he’s also one of those guys that relates to people and enjoys people.”

Claunch’s interpersonal skills may be put to the test pretty soon.

Jordan Ivy-Curry and Christian Tucker, the Roadrunners’ top two guards, have already announced that they will enter the transfer portal. For the fans, it’s an eerie feeling after 10 players left the team last fall.

Claunch said he only hopes the players with eligibility stay long enough to talk to him because he thinks they can become part of a championship foundation.

“I want to get down there and talk to our guys face to face,” he said. “Because, they committed to UTSA for a reason, and I still believe that they can be big parts of winning a championship in the American. So, I would tell them just to hang tight. I’ll be down there soon and look forward to talking to them in person.”

Austin Claunch named to lead the UTSA men’s basketball program

Editor’s note: Alabama assistant Austin Claunch has been hired as head coach of the UTSA men’s basketball program, it was announced Sunday afternoon. Here’s my story from yesterday:

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Multiple media outlets are reporting that the UTSA Roadrunners are targeting University of Alabama assistant Austin Claunch to become their next head coach in men’s basketball.

Claunch, who has roots in Texas, has worked under Alabama head coach Nate Oats for one season.

The story was broken early Saturday afternoon by Alamo City Hoops. Officials in the Alabama men’s basketball program couldn’t be reached. A UTSA spokesman said in a text, “We have no news regarding our men’s basketball coaching search at this time.”

If a deal can be worked out, Claunch apparently would arrive at UTSA as the youngest men’s basketball head coach in school history (34) and only the third to take the job in their 30s, following Brooks Thompson who was 35 when he was hired in 2006 and Ken Burmeister (38) in 1986.

At the same time, Claunch would bring with him the most victories in Division I of any previous UTSA coach except for one. Stu Starner won 110 games at Montana State before he was hired at UTSA in 1990. Claunch won 90 games at Nicholls State from 2018-19 through 2022-23.

Claunch would become the only man hired for the UTSA job with as many as two Division I regular-season titles on his record. He won Southland Conference titles at Nicholls in 2021 and 2022. Starner won one Big Sky title at Montana State in 1987.

Born in Argentina, Claunch grew up in Texas and played basketball at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston. He also attended and played for Emory College in Atlanta.

In his coaching career, he has worked at George Mason (2012-13) and Clemson (2013-16) and Nicholls State (2016-23). In his first two years at Nicholls, he served as an assistant coach. He was promoted to head coach in 2018.

In five seasons, Claunch went 90-61 overall, including 58-28 in conference.

The UTSA job came open Thursday when coach Steve Henson was told his contract would not be renewed. Henson posted a record of 110-144 in eight years. Most recently, he had suffered three consecutive seasons with 20 or more losses.