When a program undertakes an ambitious rebuilding regimen, it is necessary to have leadership well versed in taking programs to the next level.
The Horned Frogs men’s basketball team is that program this season, and first-year assistant coach Rob Evans is that leadership.
“I’m very excited to be here at TCU,” he said. “This is a program on the rise.”
Fort Worth is the latest stop on the coaching carrousel for Evans, who has spent the last 42 years of his life coaching basketball at the Division I level.
In that time span, he has rightfully earned a reputation as a program builder, someone who excels at taking struggling teams and aiding them in their rise to prominence.
He did it at Arizona State University, where he led the Sun Devils to postseason appearances in four of his eight seasons. He did it at Ole Miss before that, where the Rebels made it to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years during his tenure after having made it only once before.
Before those head coaching stops, Evans spent time working as an assistant with TCU’s future Big 12 Conference mates Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. From Stillwater, Okla., to Oxford, Miss., Evans has succeeded in taking his teams to the next level.
The secret to his style lies within his unwavering commitment to doing things the right way, all the time, he said. The 65-year-old from Hobbs, N.M., exudes an aura of calm that comes with living a consistent life.
“We know we have to follow our plan,” he said, adding the need for “people [to] believe in the program.”
Evans garners that belief by engaging in practices that are above ground, both on and off the court.
“Any time we have an assignment, whether it’s on the floor or in the classroom, I tell these guys to do their very best,” he said.
At Ole Miss, Evans inherited a team and a situation that many thought would be unable to succeed due to turmoil off the court and a dismal history on it.
But Evans fashioned a winner in Oxford.
Journalist Terrance Harris once wrote that Evans’ “game is basketball, but the class Evans toils in most passionately is life. Not only has Evans invested a countless amount of energy into winning basketball games as head coach at Ole Miss, he has poured even more of his soul into helping his players evolve into men.”
Not only did Evans’ time at the helm of Ole Miss end with unprecedented success for the school, the team continued its winning ways under Evans’ successor, Rod Barnes.
According to Kevin White, ASU’s athletics director at the time of Evans’ hiring, he “did not rebuild the Ole Miss program—he built the program.”
From 1998 to 2006, Evans worked as Arizona State’s head coach. While there, he maintained his commitment to developing men who could play basketball but also succeed in life.
Ed Graney of ESPN said that “[Evans] is as commanding as he is caring. Know this: His impact will transcend a round ball and a basket. He will give the college game something to be proud of.”
Indeed, Evans said he immediately went to work creating a legacy built upon his values of fairness and consistency.
Hall of fame coach Ed Sutton, under whom Evans worked at Oklahoma State, once called him “a tireless worker who brings a lot to the table.”
Although his run at Arizona State was successful, Evans decided to put up the head coach’s clipboard to come to Fort Worth as an assistant under Jim Christian.
As the program transitions to the Big 12, Evans’ recruiting prowess will be greatly valued.
Sutton often gave Evans credit for recruiting many of the players that propelled the Cowboys to the Final Four in 1995.
As a coach, Evans’ expertise is invaluable to the squad.
“With each game, I feel like we’re getting better,” he said, a key to the program going forward.
And looking forward to the Big 12, enhanced recruiting and an ironclad identity are necessary.
Fortunately for the Frogs, Evans brings both.