Austin Peay head coach Matt Figger calls for a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

EDINBURG — UTRGV has found its next men’s basketball head coach after a turbulent season on the hardwood, naming Matt Figger as the leader of the program Monday.

Figger has served as the head coach at Austin Peay, a Division I school that competes in the Ohio Valley Conference, for the past four seasons.

“Coach Figger certainly recognizes that our program is on the rise, and we are confident that he is the right person for the job,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said in a written statement. “He has had tremendous success as a Division I head coach, and we are delighted to have him.”

“I am extremely grateful to Chasse Conque and President Guy Bailey for giving me this incredible opportunity and believing in my vision to pick up the baton for this program,” Figger said in a written statement. “I cannot express enough how excited my family and I are to become a part of the UTRGV family.”

Figger will make the jump to UTRGV after tallying a 76-51 record during four winning seasons at Austin Peay, his first head-coaching position.

UTRGV announced Matt Figger — who previously served as the head coach at Austin Peay and an assistant at Kansas State, South Alabama and South Carolina — will take over as the next Vaqueros’ men’s basketball head coach. Courtesy Photo | Austin Peay Athletics

He earned the Ohio Valley Conference’s 2017-18 Coach of the Year award during his first year at the helm after leading the Governors to a 19-15 record and a quarterfinal appearance in the Tournament.

Figger also brings with him a reputation as a defensive coach and a wealth of postseason experience as an assistant coach.

He ushered in a dramatic defensive turnaround at Austin Peay. The Governors surrendered 71.2 points per game during his first season after giving up an average of 83.8 the year before, which represented the second-best year-to-year defensive improvement across the country.

Before taking over at Austin Peay, Figger served as an assistant coach at South Alabama before joining Frank Martin’s staffs at both Kansas State and South Carolina.

He played a role in getting all three programs to the NCAA Tournament, including an Elite Eight run at Kansas State and a Final Four appearance during his final season at South Carolina.

“Matt Figger is a people builder and a program builder,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said in a written statement. “UTRGV has hired the consummate worker and winner. He will immerse all his energies into the university and the community.”

“Coach Figger is a proven winner who has strong Texas ties and brings a wealth of Division I experience to our program,” UTRGV Vice President and Athletic Director Chasse Conque said in a written statement. “As a sitting Division I head coach from a very respected program at Austin Peay, this is a statement hire for our university, athletics department and men’s basketball program. I am confident Coach Figger will continue to build upon the great work and legacy of Coach Hill.”

Figger inherits a Vaqueros program in the midst of widespread change.

He takes over as the successor to former UTRGV head coach Lew Hill, who died unexpectedly in early February during his fifth season leading the team, and interim head coach Jai Steadman, who led the Vaqueros to a 1-6 record after Hill’s death.

UTRGV has also lost its three leading scorers from this past season within the past month.

Redshirt junior Sean Rhea, sophomore forward Quinton Johnson II and senior point guard Javon Levi — the program’s all-time steals leader — have each recently entered the transfer portal, leaving several holes in the Vaqueros’ starting lineup heading into next season.

“This program has already experienced an incredible leader in Lew Hill,” Figger said in a written statement. “Coach Hill’s vision has already laid a strong foundation. My job is to continue the work and do my due diligence to make this program successful and to take it to levels never before experienced.”


Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch