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Report: Texas finalizes deal to hire SMU assistant KT Turner

The reportedly imminent departure of Jai Lucas could also result in a promotion on head coach Shaka Smart’s staff.

UCF Knights V SMU Mustangs
SMU assistant K.T. Turner (far right)
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

For exactly five months, Texas Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart has conducted a search to find the replacement for assistant Luke Yaklich, who returned to Illinois to become the head coach of the Illinois-Chicago Flames.

Since then, there hasn’t been a lot of information about Smart’s coaching search, but reports did emerge this week that Smart is targeting SMU assistant KT Turner to replace Yaklich and expects to hire the Oklahoma native after increasing the original offer.

On Wednesday morning, Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman reported that the two sides deal finalized the deal and Turner will become the new associate head coach at Texas. According to Dustin McComas of Orangebloods, the agreement happened on Thursday evening.

Turner was about to enter his eighth season at SMU and his fifth as associate head coach — he was hired by former head coach Larry Brown in 2013. During that time, Turner helped the Mustangs win two AAC regular season titles, two AAC tournament titles, make the NCAA tournament twice, and make the NIT title game. Three SMU players were selected in the NBA Draft since his arrival and seven more are playing overseas.

There’s another tie to a successful coach in Turner’s background, too, as he arrived in Highland Park after Wichita State made its run to the Final Four under head coach Gregg Marshall.

A college basketball player at Hutchinson CC in Kansas, Turner also has experience working as an assistant at a variety of junior colleges, including his alma mater. During one season at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Turner was the primary recruiter.

At SMU, Turner spent two years recruiting top-100 prospect Shake Milton, a shooting guard from Oklahoma who held offers from Baylor, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M, among others. Milton spent three years with the Mustangs and averaged 18 points per game as a junior before entering the NBA Draft.

“He’s a great young coach,” Brown said of Turner in 2014. “He’s going to be unbelievably successful as a head coach real soon, but he’s a great part of our program. The kids like him, he’s knowledgeable, he’s hard working. I think I hit a home run.”

Brown’s prediction hasn’t come true yet, but Turner could help Texas partially replace the recruiting acumen of assistant Jai Lucas, who is reportedly close to finalizing a deal with Kentucky to take on an off-court role for one season before joining head coach John Calipari on the bench.

The top candidate to fill the vacancy left by Lucas is Cody Hatt, the current Director of Basketball Operations, a role that Lucas once held. Hatt is in his fifth year the Longhorns — he was a special assistant when he arrived with Smart from Virginia after serving as a graduate assistant for VCU. At Texas, he was responsible for upgrades at Denton Cooley Pavilion.