Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Thursday, March 20, 2014 | 12:34 p.m.
Updated Thursday, March 20, 2014 | 1:37 p.m.
UT Martin has selected UNLV assistant Heath Schroyer to rebuild its men's basketball program that has lost over 20 games each of the last five seasons.
In a Thursday news conference, Schroyer called the Ohio Valley Conference program a "sleeping giant."
"I believe that we're going to compete for championships sooner (rather) than later," Schroyer said. "Is that going to happen in one day? No. But I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe that with my heart and my soul. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that this place can be great. We have a lot of work to do. There are a lot of things that need to be done, but I have a clear vision of where we're going to take this program. I couldn't be more excited, but I also understand that it's a tough challenge."
Schroyer previously was a head coach at Portland State and Wyoming. He went 35-47 at Portland State in 2002-05 and 49-68 at Wyoming in 2007-11. In his final year at Portland State, Schroyer led the Vikings to a 19-9 record and a Big Sky regular-season title that represented their first men's basketball conference championship as a Division I member.
Schroyer, 42, has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach on Dave Rice's staff at UNLV. UT Martin athletic director Julio Freire was an associate athletic director at UNLV from 2010-13.
"I have known him to be the kind of person that I'd want coaching my own son, but more importantly, I know him to be the type of person that I want coaching our 15 young men that are known as the UTM men's basketball program," Freire said.
Schroyer replaces Jason James, who was fired March 3 after going 37-117 in his five-year tenure. UT Martin went 8-23 this season and lost 85-55 to UNLV on Nov. 30.
Schroyer said UT Martin caught his attention when he produced the scouting report for UNLV's game with the Skyhawks.
"I was very impressed with some of the individual talent that was on this team," Schroyer said. "After we played them, I was even more impressed about some of the individual pieces that were on this team."
When the UT Martin job opened this month, Schroyer remembered that game. As he visited UT Martin's campus while pursuing the job, he saw a place that reminded him of his own small-town upbringing.
"My fiancée grew up in a very small town," Schroyer said. "I grew up on a dairy farm in western Maryland. ... I wanted to kind of get back to our roots. I wanted to get back to a place where we could raise our family – and a place I thought had a lot of potential.
"I believe this place has untapped potential. I believe in the vision of the chancellor. I believe in the vision of Julio. Everyone I've talked to about UTM said, 'Coach, it's untapped.'"