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.