Bring Me a Shrubbery: UTSA Men’s Basketball and the Holy Grail

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Ed. Note: This guest article was written by long-time podcast listener Mongo Watson. If you have an opinion you’d like to share with the community please submit your pitch at this link.

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is a scene in which a mob captures a woman it says is a witch. But in truth, it doesn’t really matter to the mob if the woman is a witch or not.  That’s not really the point. The point is they just want to burn someone at the stake – anyone.  She just happens to be the one they picked.  

They dressed her up like a witch, put a fake nose on her that they said made her look like a witch, and one guy even claimed that she had turned him into a newt (he got better, he  said). 

Why the Monty Python reference? Well, because most things in life, if we are being honest with ourselves, can be explained through Monty Python skits, but also because it reminds me a lot of latest drama around the men’s basketball program.  

A while back I wrote an article about the UTSA men’s basketball curse. I think two people read it, and one was me, and I think the other was Jared. Editor’s note: The article was actually our second most-read article in January! But since the article was about a curse, and UTSA fans apparently want to burn a witch at the stake, it is all just too coincidental to pass up.

In the article I predicted Dr. Campos would not bring back Henson to coach the team. And as it turned out I was half right. She announced that Henson would return to coach the team through the final year of his contract, but she did not extend his contract. 

Now, for those of you who live and work in the real world, let me explain how college athletics works, because it doesn’t work at all like the real world. In the real world both parties are expected to honor the terms of a contract. This means working until the contract is completed. Then, if the work was deemed acceptable, a second contract might be offered. But this seemingly logical way of doing things doesn’t happen in college athletics.

In college athletics a coach’s contract must be extended before the coach enters their final year. Why? Recruiting. Simple as that. What potential recruit wants to commit to a coach who does not have the confidence of the school they work for? And without recruiting, a program has no shot. So, by not extending Henson, the school made him a lame duck coach. And in doing so, it guaranteed that he will not be able to attract the recruits he needs to make the team competitive next season.

I must admit, I’m a little surprised at how many UTSA fans don’t seem to understand this. I see all kinds of posts from people trying to dress Henson up as a witch, and just as many  who are trying to defend him. It’s all irrelevant now. Dr. Campos has spoken. The issue is settled. Henson won’t be leading the program into the future. But he isn’t the witch, no matter how many fake noses fans put on him.  

So then, the witch must be the transferring players, right? No, wrong again. No one should say anything bad about a transferring player. They all committed themselves to the program and worked hard. I’m sure each player has his own reasons for leaving, but Dr. Campos’s decision certainly didn’t help convince them to stay. The players can see the handwriting on the wall, even if many fans can’t. The talent pool in the program won’t dramatically improve this upcoming season, leaving players who want to compete, and there’s little hope for them to do so at UTSA. Transferring is really their only option. Can’t fault them. I’d do the same.

So, why is Dr. Campos keeping Henson around for another year if she has already decided to move on? Does it mean that Dr. Campos is the witch? See, now we’re in full Monty Python mode, looking for anyone to burn because we don’t like the way things are going. Someone must be at fault, even if they aren’t really at fault.

But it does bring up an interesting point. Clearly, there is no good reason for keeping Henson one more year, so instead there must be a bad reason for keeping him. And that bad reason is the curse. Money. I mean, it may not be money, but I can’t for the life me think of a reason to keep Henson around as a lame duck that isn’t money related.  

And that brings us to the last witch: the Convocation Center. Because over the past several months many UTSA fans have stepped forward to claim the Convo turned them into newts. And even though that sounds more believable than any of the other witch theories presented here, it just isn’t real.

I’ve heard people trash the Convo as a way of either defending Henson’s lack of success, or as a theory as to why other coaches will also fail. 

This is nonsense, of course. The Convo clearly weighs more than a duck (you need to watch the entire witch scene). It is also irrelevant to Henson’s defense because, as I’ve pointed out, Dr. Campos has already decided Henson’s fate, so it is a moot point.  

Second, coaches can at times overcome crappy facilities and achieve success. Look no further than Karen Aston and Pat Hallmark. Coach Aston shares the Convo with Henson, and the women’s program is on the upswing. Coach Hallmark is creating a monster in a baseball  stadium that is so awful it makes the Convo look like Madison Square Garden in comparison. 

And third, UTSA has been very transparent about its facility improvements, and a new Convo is not anywhere close to the top of that list. So, further whining about it is a waste of  breath.

No, money is the curse. I doubt Dr. Campos is surprised that the men’s program needs an injection of resources. The delay in making that investment must be directly tied to budget,  which means the investment she wants to make is big. Surely, it wasn’t a coincidence that she was so forthcoming with Greg Luca of the Express News the other day in pointing out the  athletic department’s expanding budget and the facility improvements scheduled and nearly  fully funded. In other words, the message is, we are spending money. Lots of money.  

I’m guessing this means that after next year she plans on putting the men’s basketball curse to bed for good by giving the perpetually underfunded program an injection of resources and a new start. Seems reasonable, and honestly, it is the only logical thing I can think of. 

Because if anyone is the witch here, we are. I’m pretty sure Dr. Campos would have fired Henson after this past season if boosters would have handed her a check to cover all the costs associated with the buyout and a new hire. But no one did. So maybe, just maybe, we should stop dressing up other people like witches. Not every story has a villain. Sometimes things simply don’t work out. 

I get that there is a lot of anger about the men’s program. I think that anger is justified, but I just don’t know what its purpose is. Do fans really think Dr. Campos doesn’t know the team has underperformed? Or do they think she knows but doesn’t care? Really? I suppose anything is possible, but if true, it would be inconsistent with everything I have seen from her up to now.  

So, what does our anger want, besides someone to burn at the stake? If the decision to bring Henson back for his lame duck season was based on money, then what is the Athletics  Department supposed to do? From where should it take the money it needs to make a  significant change? Because the change must be significant. Anything less, and we’ll be back  here in three years, angry again.

At some point, college fanbases get the programs they deserve. If we want a better program, we’ll have to work for it… constructively.  

Because that shrubbery won’t come cheap.

I love that movie.


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