Sept. 10, 1999
Norman, Okla. - Jason Rabedeaux, an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma for the last five years, was named UTEP's 14th men's basketball coach in a press conference today at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
Rabedeaux succeeds Hall of Famer Don Haskins, who announced his retirement Aug. 24 after amassing a 719-354 record in 38 seasons with the Miners.
"We had a huge task to perform in a short period of time, to hire someone who is appropriate for this university," said UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull. "We had an outstanding group of candidates to choose from. Jason emerged as the best fit for UTEP. He is highly-organized, has a great plan and is well-connected in Southwest and West Coast recruiting.
"He has experience recruiting to isolated areas like Pullman, Wash., and Norman, Okla., which appealed to us. His enthusiasm, his detail to coaching, his plan in academics and his public relations expertise are what we need here."
"This is a tremendous opportunity," Rabedeaux said. "I feel extremely fortunate to be with a basketball program that carries the tradition that UTEP does. The history and legacy that Coach Haskins, his staff and his players have laid over the last 30 years have made UTEP one of the best names in college basketball. I am very honored and privileged to follow in a hall of fame coach's footsteps. I am excited about carrying forward the tradition of Miner basketball into the new millenium."
Rabedeaux, 34, helped the Sooners average 20.6 victories per season from 1995-99, making NCAA Tournament appearances each year. Oklahoma reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in 1999, beating Arizona and UNC Charlotte before bowing to eventual Final Four participant Michigan State in the Midwest Region semifinals by eight points. The Sooners posted a 22-11 record last year and were ranked 19th in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. Oklahoma is one of just two Big 12 teams (Kansas is the other) to reach the NCAA Tournament each of the last five years.
"This is a great moment and a great opportunity for Jason," said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson. "He's been a special person and has meant so much to our program. When one of your assistants gets an opportunity like this, you reflect back on all the things he's done for you. But I'll miss Jason Rabedeaux as a friend more than I will as a coach.
"The bottom line is that this is a great opportunity for Jason. I think this reflects well on the University of Oklahoma and our basketball program, but the fact that his first job is at the University of Texas-El Paso, a school with great tradition and hall-of-fame coaches, speaks volumes for him."
"It's emotional," said OU junior guard Tim Heskett, the school's career leader in three-point percentage and 1998-99 Big 12 All-Bench Team member. "He recruited me and I've been with him for four years. I've been with him through hard times and good times and we've had a lot of laughs and have shed a lot of tears together. It's difficult because it's someone who we care about. But we're excited for him. This is a great opportunity and he's earned it and deserves it. He's going to be a great head coach. It's time for him to take what he's learned under Coach Sampson and start his own program."
Rabedeaux has developed a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the country. Two of the players he landed at Oklahoma - Corey Brewer and Nate Erdmann - were drafted by the Miami Heat (second round, 1998) and Utah Jazz (second round, 1997), respectively. Rabedeaux has enjoyed a great deal of success recruiting Texas and Mexico. Current Sooner Eduardo Najera (Chihuahua, Mexico), who averaged 15.5 points and 8.3 rebounds last season, is one of 25 candidates for the 2000 Wooden Award, presented to the nation's top collegiate player. OU's 1999 recruiting class is ranked in the top 15 nationally by numerous agencies.
In addition to his recruiting duties, Rabedeaux's on-court responsibilities at Oklahoma included developing the team's backcourt players. He also assisted in coordinating Oklahoma's "Baseline Bash," the annual tip-off practice each October, and helped direct the Kelvin Sampson Basketball Camps.
A native of Eau Claire, Wis., Rabedeaux was an aide to Sampson for the last 10 years. He was a member of Sampson's staff at Washington State from 1989-94 prior to following him to Norman, Okla.
Rabedeaux played a vital role in resurrecting Washington State's basketball program. The Cougars were 7-22 in Rabedeaux's first season (1989-90). They recorded a winning record each of the next four years, advancing to the National Invitation Tournament in 1992 and the NCAA Tournament in 1994. Rabedeaux lured players from a total of 12 states to the remote locale of Pullman, Wash.
"Jason's had a superb mentor in Coach Sampson and he's been involved with a lot of success both at Oklahoma and Washington State," said Oklahoma Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione. "The responsibilities he's had under Coach Sampson have prepared him well for this exciting opportunity at UTEP.
"Great tradition surrounds the Miner basketball program. Jason's work ethic and passion for excellence, along with the opportunity to work under a great athletic director such as Bob Stull, will enhance that tradition and make for a winning combination for the UTEP athletic program and its fans."
Rabedeaux was an assistant coach at Washington State from 1991-94, and a graduate assistant with the Cougars from 1989-91. His coaching career began as an assistant at Division III North Adams State College from 1988-89. Rabedeaux has served as recruiting coordinator at all three schools he has been associated with. A 1988 graduate of the University of California-Davis, Rabedeaux was a four-year starter in basketball, earning All-Conference honors on two occasions. He concluded his collegiate career as the seventh all-time leading scorer in school history. He also set California-Davis records for most three-point field goals in a season (80), most three-point field goals in a game (six) and most free throws in a game (14). Rabedeaux earned his bachelor's degree in exercise physiology, and added a master's degree in athletic administration from Washington State in 1991.
Rabedeaux and his wife, Stephanie, have two sons - Beau (3) and Cole (1). He was born April 4, 1965, in Aurora, Ill.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT JASON RABEDEAUX
"Bob Stull has made a brilliant hire. After Jason has been there for one week, everybody will realize that athletic department is headed in the right direction, because he's more prepared than any assistant and many head coaches that I've been around.
"Obviously Jason can coach basketball, but he's also an unbelievable recruiter, a team player and a wonderful community representative. He is as honest as the day is long, and he is always there for the right reasons. I know a lot of coaches around the country, and he is the best.
"This is a tremendous step for UTEP. I'm excited for Miners everywhere. I don't know if Jason can walk on water, but I don't know that he can't, either. He's a great, great person."
Jim Livengood, Athletic Director, University of Arizona and former Washington State University Director of Athletics
"UTEP has selected wisely. They chose a special coach and man to follow a legend. Jason is ready and will do well."
Donnie Duncan, Senior Associate Commissioner, Big 12 Conference and former University of Oklahoma Director of Athletics
"Jason Rabedeaux is an outstanding choice to lead the UTEP basketball program. He's an excellent coach, an outstanding recruiter, and he will do a great job in the university and El Paso communities."
Kim Anderson, Big 12 Director of Basketball Operations
"You find out how good someone is in this business when you compete against him. I knew when I first met Jason that he was going to be a head coach. He is the kind of guy that would get the job done anywhere. He's the total package, and he understands the business. You have to be willing to get up a little earlier and stay a little bit later to succeed, and he's that kind of person. Jason is going to bring some fire with him.
"I don't think Bob Stull could have hired anyone better, no matter what time of the year he was looking. I'm always thinking about who I would hire if one of my guys left. I would hire Jason in a second, and I think a lot of people would."
Rick Barnes, Head Coach, University of Texas