The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

UTA’s Scott Cross Builds a Winner Every Day

All is calm during stretches and warm-ups for the University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks basketball team. Then with the shrill sound of a whistle, the Mavericks men’s team start clapping and yelling as they took the court for their 2:30 p.m. practice.

The coaching staff ran an up-tempo practice that stressed tight defense and technique. Scott Cross, a former UTA player and Academic All-American, leads the team through practice after maxing out in the weight room with his team earlier that day.

Great expectations

Cross, the Mavericks’ head coach, stands back around mid-court keeping watch on how well his team’s intensity measures up to his standards before blowing his whistle and yelling “Stop!” Cross runs over to his player and says “You’ve got to move! Be right up in his face.”

“We want toughness, we want guys who play hard and diving on the floor and doing the little things. We want guys who can do a little bit of everything so we try to find the guys that have all of those things,” says Cross, who is entering his sixth season as the head coach at UTA. Cross pushes his players to their limits, but they say they appreciate it.

 “When you walk in the gym with Coach Cross, if you’re not playing hard or if you’re doing things well he’s going to let you know and it makes you elevate your game. He basically brings out another type of person in you,” says sophomore guard Jamel Outler.

 An impressive new facility

Players begin to put their hands on their hips, but push each other through the grueling practice with encouragement. The practice pushes the players to their limits and the staff presses players for effort and enthusiasm as the team works out in their new $78 million, 218,000 square-foot facility dubbed College Park Center. It is a measuring stick for how far the program has come since its days of playing on a stage at Texas Hall.

Even with this impressive new facility, Cross does not want his players becoming complacent, but instead wants the team to remember where it came from. That is why Cross is bringing his team back to the “sweatbox,” an old physical education building with no air-conditioning that just happens to have a court and is where Cross grew up practicing. Practicing in the “sweatbox” is a way that coach Cross reminds his players where the team has come from, but practicing in the “sweatbox” is more about developing his team’s toughness more than anything. Cross’ intensity shines throughout the entire practice and his ability to balance that intensity while teaching his players his system is what makes Cross one of the up and coming coaches in the country.

“He’s intense and innovative. He’s a players’ coach but, in the same respect he’s hard nosed and tough so we’ve got a good culture here and synergy,” said UTA associate head basketball coach Greg Young.

His journey

Coach Cross began his career at UTA in 1995 as a player after a stint at University Texas at San Antonio, where he redshirted, followed by a year at Tyler Junior College. After a year at the junior college level, Cross earned a scholarship at UTA, was a three-year letter winner and started 58 games over his career.

Shortly after his senior season, everything fell into place for Cross. Assistant coach Buzz Williams, who is now the head coach of Marquette University, left for another job. The part-time assistant coach for the team wanted to remain part-time and Cross was offered Williams’ job by his head coach, Eddie McCarter.

“I was naïve and thought it was going to be easier. When I first got hired I thought that I had all the answers and was going to just coach them up, but I quickly realized that everybody you’re going against is a great coach and its not that easy so you better get a great staff,” said Cross.

When Cross began his career, he realized that he would have to put even more work in to beat teams because of the intense competition of college basketball. Cross began his career recruiting, making budgets, setting schedules and compiling scouting reports. Cross says all of that experience early in his career helped him develop his work-ethic, even though he had earned a perfect 4.0 GPA in college with his work-ethic.

Coming to UTA

Since Cross has been at UTA, the team has been doing things that have never been done before and a large part of that is due to Cross not being satisfied with where the team is. Every day the team goes to work the coaching staff preaches that ‘championships are won today.’ With Cross’ guidance, the team has been to the NCAA tournament and has built an incredible basketball facility that was only a pipedream when Cross started at UTA.

 “I get excited about doing stuff that people say never could happen. When we went to the NCAA tournament, it was a monkey on our back so people said UTA hasn’t went for 49 years it’s not going to happen, cant do it, it’s a curse, but so we finally did it,” said Cross.

After being named one of the coaches on the verge of elite status by ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, Cross’ has become higher-profile and better-known in the basketball world. Fraschilla’s Cross made a great impression on Fraschilla by just being himself with his work-ethic and commitment to his program and not bettering himself.

 “He’s reserved and humble. He doesn’t promote himself and that’s what I like about him. He just goes about his business,” said Fraschilla.

Cross still maintains that everything goes back to his team’s mantra even with the added attention.

“It’s like Coach Barnes (Head Coach of the University of Texas Basketball team) has in his office, ‘proud peacock today, feather duster tomorrow.” In other words, “You’re only as good as your last game. I’m very honored and humbled to be mentioned with those guys, but you know that was because of the success we had last year, but it’s all about what we do now,” said Cross.

Family Values

One team that is always by Cross’ side no matter how his last game went is his wife, Jennifer, who played volleyball at UTA, and his three sons, Austin, 8, Cody, 5 and Tyler, 4. The family keeps Cross grounded and in the middle instead of worrying too much about the ups and downs of a season.

“At the end of the day I’ve got to raise them to be great kids and go on and do great things too so that’s important to me as well,” said Cross. “I’ve got the 16 kids here that I’ve got to mold and teach and help them become successful in the community as well as the basketball court, but I’ve got to do that at home as well.”

Cross not only has his family and
team by his side, but also the community of Arlington, where he has worked to get the team out to build relationships with the students and people in the area. With his team out in the Arlington community at university events, other athletics events and Arlington events, Cross has seen the support grow exponentially and that has helped his team on the court as well.

 “Our success to a small degree, don’t get me wrong a lot is determined by what we do on that practice court, but our fans have a big part of that. I’d be willing to say that we would have lost 2 of those 4 games last year, but our fans gave us a little jump,” said Cross.

The future looks bright

With a four-year extension that will keep Cross at UTA through the 2015-16 season, a new facility, more academic support with their two advisors and a sense of community pride in the program, Cross has built UTA and the UTA basketball program into one that he believes will compete for Western Athletic Conference and then Sun Belt Conference titles beginning in the 2013-14 season.

Ultimately, Cross believes a Final Four appearance and a national championship are attainable goals for the program he built so well.

“I know that may sound far fetched to a lot of people, but that is what I want to do. I don’t see why not,” said Cross. If I didn’t have a job and you asked me what my dream job would be, it would be the head coach at UTA so I am living out a dream.”

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