A coach on and off the court

Coach Rodney Terry with Karachi Edo, Paul Watson and Cullen Russo last season. (Collegian File Photo)

Standing on the sidelines yelling, cheering and thinking about the next play is the man behind the Fresno State men’s basketball team – head coach Rodney Terry.

Terry, the ‘Dogs’ coach since 2011, has turned the team to a Mountain West contender.

In his second season, Terry led the ‘Dogs to a 9-9 record in Mountain West play despite beginning 1-7. The ‘Dogs eventually finished with their first 20-win season and postseason appearance in seven years.

Terry has helped the ‘Dogs make appearances in the NCAA Tournament and NIT several times.

In the 2015-16 season, Terry improved the team’s record to 13-5 in conference play and guided the ‘Dogs to a Mountain West Championship.

“The Lord has given me the opportunity to play and the chance to coach the game I love,” Terry said.

Plays to Fresno State

Born in Angleton, Texas, Terry graduated from Angleton High School and played college ball at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

“I can’t remember a time, [a] part of my life, where I haven’t been part of a team,” Terry said. “I’ve been a part of a team since I was 8 years old.”

A three-year starter as point guard, he became a three-time Academic All-Big State Conference selection. He served as a team captain for his last two seasons.

Terry embarked on a coaching journey after graduating from St. Edward’s in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in physical education.

“I love working with young people,” Terry said. “I identified that early in my life that that was something I wanted to do. Hopefully make a difference in the world with young people and give them a good vision for their life.”

Helping out everywhere he could, Terry became an assistant coach at St. Edward’s and James Bowie High School for two years.

After assisting, Terry took on the head coach position at Somerville High where he led the team for two seasons to a 49-21 record and a spot in the Class 2A semifinals.

After his stint at Somerville, he returned to his old stomping grounds as head coach at Angleton High.

Becoming peers with some of his former teachers, Terry got the chance to be on the same level with them.

Terry started coaching at the collegiate level in 1996 as an assistant coach at Baylor.

“Sometimes you say some things happen by chance,” Terry said. “I was coaching high school and happy coaching high school and then one year I ran into the head coach at Baylor.”

Terry seized the opportunity. He went down and met with head coach Harry Miller and the rest is history.

He has now been coaching Division I for 22 years.

Terry stayed at Baylor for two years before joining current Bulldog assistant coach Jerry Wainwright’s staff as assistant coach at University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“Coach Miller gave me a lot of responsibilities with the [Baylor] program, I wore just about every hat that you could wear in being a part of a program,” Terry said. “I got a chance to learn and grow a lot.”

At UNCW, Terry helped the No.13-seed Seahawks make the 2000 and 2002 NCAA Tournaments as well as upset No. 4-seed USC in the first round for their first NCAA tournament win in program history.

Before coming to Fresno State, Terry made one last stop at the University of Texas at Austin where his team made NCAA Tournament runs to the Final Four and the Elite Eight.

It was there where he also helped recruit and coach McDonald’s All-America players like Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin and Tristan Thompson.

“As talented as players those guys are, they’re really good kids, and they were really humble kids,” Terry said. “They worked extremely hard. They were always one of our hardest-working players on the team, and they were also great teammates.”

Terry catches up with them every so often. 

Thompson leaving Terry some great seats for Game 2 of the NBA Finals had the chance to catch up after the game.

“I obviously let him know how proud I am of him, what he’s been able to do up to this point [and to not] forget where he came from and how hard it took for him to get where he is,” Terry said.

According to GoBulldogs.com, Terry coached a total of 13 players at Texas who have been drafted.

“I’ve just been blessed, been blessed to be around some really good guys,” Terry said. “I’m just as proud of guys that get a chance to work in corporate America, that become husbands, become great fathers, as I am for the guys that get a chance to go on to play professional.”

Terry replaced Steve Cleveland as the ‘Dogs’ head coach in April 2011. He was already familiar with Fresno because he recruited the area when he was an assistant coach.

“I just saw that there was a great opportunity here, and I kind of just looked at it as a sleeping giant,” Terry said.

In his first season at Fresno State, the ‘Dogs packed the Save Mart Center with the third largest crowd in California. The rest is history.

Off the court

Though Terry has a great resume on the court, it is also off the court where he continues to make a difference in his players’ lives.

“It’s been great, being here my third year and just learning a lot from Coach Terry,” senior guard Jahmel Taylor said. “Just growing as a man and understanding how to play as a professional and understanding, you know, you got to take care of school and also basketball.”

Terry’s immediate family lives in Texas, but he thinks of his basketball team as his family, too.

“My extended family is my basketball family,” Terry said. “I don’t have kids, but my guys are my kids, and I’d like to think that in terms of trying to help them continue to grow as young men.”

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