New LSU basketball coach Will Wade has made the first hire for his coaching staff: former North Texas head coach Tony Benford.
Wade, who took over the program last Wednesday, told The Advocate on Monday that he was working hard on getting his staff assembled and was close to getting his first assistant on board.
A source Tuesday morning confirmed the hiring to The Advocate after the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle, citing an unidentified source, reported Benford, a native of Hobbs, New Mexico, would be part of Wade's staff. LSU then announced his addition Tuesday afternoon.
“Tony is the next step in our efforts to build a winning basketball program that all LSU fans can be proud of," Wade said in a university news release. "His experience as both a head coach and long-time assistant on the recruiting trail will help us in our stated mission to recruit the best players that want to come to LSU and make LSU a consistent winner."
Benford, a former Texas Tech player who replaced former LSU coach Johnny Jones at North Texas in 2012 after Jones left for his alma mater, was fired March 5 after an 8-22 season. Before taking over for Jones at North Texas, Benford served four seasons at Marquette under then-coach Buzz Williams — the last year as associate head coach. Benford was also an assistant coach at New Mexico, Arizona State and Nebraska before joining Williams at Marquette.
During that time, the 53-year-old Benford was named by Basketball Times, Fox Sports and Hoop Scoop as one of the country’s top Division I assistant coaches.
Benford left Marquette in 2012 to become a head coach for the first time but struggled in his first season at North Texas.
The Mean Green went 12-20 despite having projected NBA lottery pick Tony Mitchell and the top six scorers returning from Jones' final season as coach.
Benford went 16-16 in his second season, but that was the high-water mark of his five-year stay. He departed with a 62-95 overall mark.
in 25 seasons as a college coach, Benford has helped his team reach the NCAA tournament 13 times — five at New Mexico and four each at Arizona State and Marquette.
“Coach Wade is one of the best young coaches in the country, and having the opportunity to work with him and restore the great tradition here at LSU is something I am really looking forward to," Benford said in the news release announcing his hiring. "I feel like his style of play will be very attractive to recruits."
Wade can add two more full-time assistants and a director of operations to complete his staff, which he said he hopes to do in the next couple of weeks.