After six years of leading one of the state’s premier high school girls basketball programs, Plano Senior’s Rodney Belcher is returning to the college hardwood.
Belcher has been named the first-ever head women’s basketball coach at The University of North Texas at Dallas, which will embark on its inaugural season as part of the NAIA this fall.
Currently, the school has upstart programs in men’s and women’s basketball, as well as cross country and track, and will play in the Sooner Athletic Conference — albeit after a probationary season in 2020-21 where UNTD won’t be able to compete for a conference championship but can still play conference opponents.
“It’s a great opportunity. I’ve always wanted to coach in college. It’s an opportunity to help the young people in this area and give them a chance to play college basketball and try to make a difference in the community,” Belcher said.
Belcher will help build the Trailblazers’ program from the ground up, a contrast to the latest stop in his lengthy coaching career. Belcher had spent 18 total years at Plano, including the past 14 with the girls basketball program. He coached alongside Lynn Meger as an assistant for eight years before taking the reins as head coach in 2014 following Meger’s retirement. In the six years since, Belcher kept the Lady Wildcats among the state’s elite — culminating in the program’s first-ever Class 6A state championship in 2018.
“Without a doubt, one of the toughest parts is leaving all those relationships I’ve built here with coaches and administration,” Belcher said. “A lot of people don’t know that I also teach P.E. at Shepard Elementary, and I have tons of relationships there with the students and their parents and this whole community. I’m going to miss seeing those children everyday and working with them.”
Belcher guided Plano to the playoffs all six years as head coach, advanced at least three rounds deep all but once, and reached the regional finals two of the past three years. That included a five-round postseason run in 2019-20, guiding Plano to a district championship despite losing leading scorer and Florida commit Jordyn Merritt to an early-season ACL injury.
“That was such an honor. I had great players as well as great support from the administration and parents,” Belcher said, reflecting on the program’s state title run in 2018. “Those young ladies were top level, and even the last couple years I felt like we were right there in the mix and good enough to compete for a state championship.”
In addition to missing the relationships forged over the years, Belcher noted that one other lost opportunity by leaving Plano is that we won’t get to coach his niece, Salese Blow, who played for the Lady Wildcats’ junior varsity team as a freshman.
Although Belcher has plenty of years under his belt at the high school level, including a prior stint in PISD in the 1990s, he has coached collegiately at The University of New Mexico and Baylor. Belcher said he had hoped to make a return to the college coaching ranks at some point and will do so at UNTD, where he looks to use his lengthy experience on the high school circuit to help build a program from scratch.
“We have a great market locally with all these great high schools. My main focus is going to be on local players here in both high school and the junior colleges,” Belcher said. “I’m just trying to bring in young ladies who want to take on the challenge of getting their degrees and competing at the college levels — some of the young ladies who aren’t getting recruited by the Division I or Division II schools who also want to stay close to home and get a degree.”
In the wake of Belcher’s departure, PISD has listed a job posting for a new head girls basketball coach at Plano Senior High School, which includes a physical education teaching position at Shepard Elementary School.
Whoever is named Belcher’s successor will have plenty of talent to work with, as the Lady Wildcats are projected to return all but two players — seniors Maggie Robbins and Merritt — from their regional finalist roster.
“I think they’ll be just strong as they’ve been the past few years,” Belcher said.