Vinay Patel was officially introduced as Angelo State University's new head men's basketball coach during a press conference Monday morning in the VIP Room at the Junell Center.
"What an exciting day it is for us today on our campus, especially in our athletic department, as we're announcing the new men's basketball coach here at Angelo State University," ASU Athletic Director James Reid said.
"Any time we have coaches' openings, we get inundated with interest, and I told president (Ronnie) Hawkins this would not be any different. I think when you have a great program, people want to be associated with that. And when you have a great university to go with that program, people definitely want to jump onboard."
Patel is a 17-year coaching veteran who most recently served as the head coach at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. He led the Rangers to a 20-9 overall record and one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA Division II this past season.
Before coming to NWOSU, Patel spent four years at Oklahoma City University, where his teams combined to go 82-42. He guided the Stars to a Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament championship in 2018-19 and share of the regular-season title in 2017-18. His teams made the NAIA Tournament's Sweet 16 two years in a row and advanced to the tourney all four years.
In 2018, OCU finished 24-9 and was the No. 8-ranked team in NAIA. Patel was selected as the Coach of the Year by the Sooner Athletic Conference and Oklahoma Sports Net that season.
He'll be taking over for Cinco Boone, who resigned after a six-year stint as head coach for the Rams to become an assistant coach at the University of Texas-Arlington.
Patel, a Shamrock, Texas native, earned his Master of Science degree in sports and exercise science from West Texas A&M in 2007. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise and sports science from Texas Tech.
Reid said once he found out Boone was leaving, he was flooded with applicants.
"As we began the process, it was a very arduous one," Reid said. "There were a lot of great candidates and ones that definitely would fit the bill and ones that understood our core values and our commitment, not only to athletics but to the academic side of the athletic program and the commitment to this community.
"As we went through the process, obviously you get down to that one candidate that rises above all the rest. As coach Patel and I had many conversations, it was very evident that he understood what Angelo State University was about and he understood what Angelo State University athletics was about, and most importantly, what men's basketball was about."
When Patel took the podium, he quickly warmed over the crowd with his engaging personality.
"I'm really excited to be here today," Patel said. "It's a dream come true for me. I want to thank some people -- president (Ronnie) Hawkins; it was great meeting him when I came down; and coach Reid, just getting to know him throughout the process.
"More and more, I kind of felt at home talking to (Reid), and that was probably the part of the experience I enjoyed the most coming down here and getting to see it a little bit better."
Patel is no stranger to San Angelo.
His sister is an ASU alum and he's been coming here since he was 16 years old. His mother-in-law is also an ASU grad.
"I can't tell you how many Christmases we've spent here," said Patel, whose parents recently retired and moved to San Angelo. "That's what I was telling coach (Reid) when he was telling me a little bit about it. I said, 'Well, I've been coming here for over 20 years now and I know quite a bit about it, not just from my time with (West Texas A&M).
"We've got strong family ties to this place, and so when it opened there was no question I was excited. My family, not my wife, but my parents and my sister, they don't always understand how this works. And so they were like, 'Well, why don't you just go get the Angelo State job?' And I said, 'It's not that easy.' It was a long process, but I'm glad it worked out the way it did."
Patel also met with former ASU head coach Fred Rike to pick his brain about the job.
"You know, everyone asks 'Why Angelo State?' That's always the question when you take a new job," Patel said. "Family is something that was really important to me. Coach Reid talked about the history of success.
"Angelo State's won for a long time. It's going to win, I hope, while I'm here, and it's going to win long after I'm gone. The history of success is something I wanted to be a part of. It's something that I talked to these players about today. Cinco Boone has laid a great foundation. They've had a lot of successful teams here and I'm proud to be able to build on that."
The Rams' new coach talked about the chance to compete for championships.
"Everybody wins here," Patel said. "Baseball just won the conference title the other day. I texted coach (Kevin) Brooks, 'Congrats on that,' and he's not even talking to me about baseball. He's just texting me, 'Congrats for taking the job,' and I'm trying to tell him congrats about his team.
"I think it's a place you can compete at the national level. I think you can win Lone Star Conference titles here. I think you can really compete for something special. I think there's a passionate fan base here and I've seen it in person. I've got to coach games on the sidelines here. I've heard people yell things at us and the things that they yell. I've heard you yell things at the refs as well, so I know we've got a passionate fan base."
Patel told Reid that he wanted to meet with the ASU players prior to Monday's press conference to assure them that he's here for them first of all and that he wants the recruiting process to begin with "re-recruiting" them.
"I'm not looking for people for them to fit in with," Patel said. "We've already got a great foundation here and we've got a great group of players. They're a talented group and I'm excited to coach them.
"I want to have a great culture here and that's something we talked about, of being a better team and being in this together. And I told them I don't want to fight them, I want to be in the fight with them, and that's important to me."
Patel says ASU will recruit heavily in the Lone Star state, looking to fill out the roster with players from high schools, JUCOs and four-year transfers.
"We're going to work our tails off recruiting Texas first, and then we're going to go coast to coast from there," Patel said.
ASU's new coach gave a preview of what the Rams will look like under him.
"We're going to be the toughest, most-aggressive team on the floor," Patel said. "We're going to really pride ourselves on defense, and I told our guys that in the locker room today, and I'm not sure how happy they were when I said that. We want to play fast and I don't think we can play fast if the other team's scoring on us, so we've got to really be good on the defensive end and it's going to start there.
"We need blue-collar guys. This is West Texas and I want blue-collar people. I want people who are going to dive on the floor, and I want people who are going to take charges. I want people that when you guys watch them play, that you're proud of how hard they compete for this university."
This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: Angelo State welcomes new men's basketball coach Vinay Patel