When University of Texas President Bill Powers introduced Steve Patterson as Texas's next athletics director, he described Patterson's role as filling a seat that has previously been occupied by legends.
"Jim Collins famously said that the key to an organization's success is to get the right people on the bus and get them in the right seats," Powers said. "Well, we had the right person on the bus with DeLoss Dodds. We have the right person on the bus with (women's athletics director) Chris Plonsky, and now we have the right person on the bus with Steve Patterson.
"There's a seat on the UT bus that's been occupied by legends, Dana X. Bible, Darrell Royal, and of course DeLoss Dodds, and now that seat is occupied by Steve Patterson," Powers said.
Patterson is twice-over Texas alum, getting his undergraduate degree in business administration in 1980, and moving on to his law degree, graduating in 1984. And despite a decorated professional career, which included stops with the Houston Rockets, Houston Aeros, Portland Trail Blazers and most recently Arizona State as the school's athletics director, it appeared Thursday that Texas, and Austin, never left Patterson's heart.
"It's nice to be home," a visibly emotional Patterson said. "It's really great to be here.
"It's a great brand. It's a great life-changing place," Patterson said. "To be able to follow DeLoss Dodds in this role is something I never really thought about, because how do you follow somebody like DeLoss who's really built this program. I remember when he came here and I was a student, and he said this morning there were 30 people in the department when he started, and I remember the scale of the department then, and he's built it into the envy of college athletic departments across the United States."
In fact, Patterson's son is named Austin, though he jokingly said that he originally wanted to name him Bevo. And Patterson fondly recalled his days on the 40 Acres, including his experiences following sports as a student.
"This is a premier program," Patterson said. "It has been for decades. We want to compete for championships day in and day out. We want to continue to graduate our students and do it with great ethics and follow the rules."
Powers said that Patterson's values stood out through the interview process.
"I was very impressed," Powers said. "There had been a lot written in the papers about his varied backgrounds with a lot of different kinds of organizations. I was most impressed when we first started the interview, and I of course had heard a lot about Steve. We had not met before. But he started with some stories about the transformative effect being at Arizona State had on athletes, the growth they had, the opportunities that it opened up, and it really was a while before we got into his sort of more résumé experience. So that was very impressive.
"As you can tell, you recruit for what's in here, too," Powers said. "Steve has the right values, stand-up person. Everybody speaks so well of him, and he's been very successful. That was what we were looking for, and that's what we found. As I said, we've got exactly the right person on the bus."
It wasn't all a positive first meeting with the press. Patterson was asked about Mark Killian calling Patterson's decision to leave ASU "disgusting."
"I think it's just disgusting, but that's the world of sports," Killian said. "Institutions who have the money can afford to hire whoever they want, and I'm not critical of that. But when someone makes a commitment, they should honor it. I was raised that your word is bond."
"The interesting thing was we spent some time talking on Sunday, and I think we found it was a great fit," Patterson responded. "Bill asked me, do you want to do this. I told him yeah, and it was — we had never talked about money or terms or — and to this day I don't have a piece of paper. I don't have a contract. We've got a handshake. That's how I do business.
"There are people that are going to be unhappy with my departure there," Patterson continued. "I looked at this as an opportunity for me and my family to come home. My wife has got family in Houston. My mother and my brother live here in Texas. I have a lot of great friends here, a lot of great business associates. I'm not going to deny that I'm well compensated. I've been well compensated as an executive for a lot of years. I could have stayed at ASU, but this is really a homecoming."
The press conference also stayed pretty general and short on details. Powers said that no specific plans for any of the sports programs were discussed in the interview process, and Patterson declined to answer a question about conference realignment. As for specific challenges, or needed facility improvements, Patterson said he needed to spend more time evaluating the department.
"I want to help extend the brand of UT throughout the United States and internationally," Patterson said. "We talked a bit about that over the last few days when we've been talking. I think we want to continue to support our coaches and student-athletes and try to compete for championships every single day. We want to make sure our student-athletes graduate, and not just graduate but go on to great things when they get out of here.
"I don't see this as an organization that's over in the ditch," Patterson said. "It's a place that has had tremendous success for many years. It's got all the resources it needs. It's got some great people that have been working in it for a long time, and I just hope to continue to grow that."
Patterson still has to be approved by the Texas Board of Regents, and Powers said that Texas wants to cooperate with Arizona State in the process. But Powers also said that two regents were on the search committee, and that he expected the board to approve the contract. When the regents do approve Patterson's contract, Powers said "Steve will be the AD," indicating an immediate start date.
Dodds, of course, will continue to fill in until then, and his current contract runs through August. Powers said the university hasn't yet decided on a title for Dodds, though he said his role would likely be similar to the one Darrell Royal performed as an assistant to the president in appearances and fundraising.