EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that North Texas women's basketball coach Jalie Mitchell's contract became fully guaranteed for the final two years of the deal when UNT finished in the top four of the Conference USA standings this season.
North Texas has finalized contract extensions for men’s basketball coach Grant McCasland and women’s basketball coach Jalie Mitchell and might not be done quite yet when it comes to rewarding McCasland for guiding the Mean Green to the first NCAA tournament win in program history.
UNT was in talks with both McCasland and Mitchell on extensions over the summer before putting them on hold due to financial concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school resumed those discussions over the last few weeks and received approval from its regents to execute both contracts.
McCasland signed his two-year extension that runs through the 2025-26 season in January before guiding UNT to the Conference USA tournament title and a win over Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Mitchell signed a one-year extension that runs through the 2022-23 season in February and went on to lead the UNT women to their best season as a member of C-USA, a league the Mean Green joined ahead of the 2013-14 campaign.
“The women took a huge step forward and the men showed they are capable of making noise in March by winning the conference tournament and an NCAA tournament game,” UNT athletic director Wren Baker said. “I feel good about where we are headed.”
The run the UNT men made under McCasland prompted school officials to continue discussions with him about revising his contract again. Both Baker and McCasland said those conversations are ongoing.
“Ultimately, we believe in each other, which is where you have your greatest success,” McCasland said.
The Denton Record-Chronicle obtained UNT’s new contracts with McCasland and Mitchell on Monday.
McCasland’s extension includes a $50,000 boost to his base salary, an increase of $25,000 in his annual retention bonus and a one-time $25,000 bonus for signing the deal.
McCasland, who is 79-51 in four seasons at UNT, will now make $550,000 in base salary with guaranteed incentives that will push the total value of the deal past $760,000 annually.
McCasland is more excited about what UNT has done to bolster the program’s foundation beyond his contract, including renovating its locker room, team room and training room.
“Wren has a great plan of how to grow a program,” McCasland said. “It’s not just about compensating the head coach. It’s about the program. That is a bigger priority to me. If our program is in the right place, we will be successful, which will benefit everybody.”
UNT capitalized on that foundation by winning four games in four days in the C-USA tournament. The Mean Green beat Western Kentucky in overtime in the championship game.
UNT went on to post one of the biggest wins in the history of the school’s athletics program when it took down Purdue in the NCAA tournament. The Mean Green were the No. 13 seed in the South Region and took the Boilermakers, the No. 4 seed, to overtime before pulling away for a 78-69 win. UNT had lost in the first round of each of its three previous NCAA tournament appearances.
UNT fell to Villanova in the second round and finished 18-10.
McCasland’s extended family lives in the Denton area, which helped make him feel comfortable signing a new contract with UNT.
“Everyone lives within 45 minutes of the Super Pit,” McCasland said. “We always wanted it to be about family. Our players’ and coaches’ families are part of it.”
Mitchell is also coming off a landmark season. UNT finished 13-7 overall and 10-4 in C-USA play, exceeding its previous high for C-USA wins in a season by two. The Mean Green reached that milestone despite having four conference games canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
“Anybody in this profession knows time means a lot,” Mitchell said. “Any time there is an extension, it means the administration believes in what you are doing and where the program is headed.
“I’m very grateful for that.”
Mitchell’s extension keeps her base salary at $195,000. Guaranteed incentives push the total annual value of the contract past $235,000.
The deal includes a clause that stipulates UNT will only pay Mitchell 50% of her base salary for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons in the event it elects to terminate her contract if the Mean Green do not finish in the top four of the C-USA standings in any season during the contract. UNT finished fourth this season, just weeks after Mitchell signed the deal.
A school official confirmed that UNT’s fourth-place finish this year satisfied that clause, requiring the school to pay Mitchell her entire base salary for the duration of her contract.
Mitchell, who is 70-88 in six seasons at UNT, vowed to work to continue the program’s steady rise after reaching that performance incentive.
The Duncanville native is a UNT Hall of Famer and the Mean Green’s all-time leading scorer with 1,764 points. She took over a program that won just five games in the 2014-15 season and has guided it to a host of milestones since.
UNT has posted three winning seasons under Mitchell and advanced to the final of the Women’s Basketball Invitational in 2018-19 campaign. The Mean Green won three games in the tournament, their first victories beyond a conference tournament in program history.
UNT was hoping to take another step forward in the C-USA tournament this season but was upset by Old Dominion in the first round.
That loss left Mitchell and the Mean Green hungry to get back on track. Mitchell will have additional security after signing an extension as UNT looks to reach that goal and vowed to take an aggressive approach.
“I’m never comfortable,” Mitchell said. “There is always work to be done and improvements to be made. You want to celebrate your success while considering what you can do to get better. We want to accomplish more.”