For more than five months, Texas Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart 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.
On Friday, that search finally ended with the announcement that Texas hired SMU associate head KT Turner, who was linked to the job for close to two weeks before his addition became official.
“I’m very excited about K.T. joining our program,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “He brings a wealth of experience and a tremendous basketball pedigree. K.T. will do a terrific job coaching on the floor and building strong connections with our guys and future Longhorns!”
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.
“I am honored to join the Texas Longhorns Basketball family,” Turner said. “This program has a rich basketball history, is one of the premier programs in the Big 12 Conference, and is the flagship university of this great State.
“Coach Smart has built a culture that embodies core values I appreciate and completely align with,” Turner continued. “I look at this as an opportunity to help this prestigious program reach the level we know it’s capable of. The alumni of Texas Basketball are one of the nation’s elite and I am thrilled to get to know them, the Longhorn community, and to get to work with our players and staff.”
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 recently finalized 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.