When Texas track and field combined into a joint men’s and women’s program before this season, a monumental effort was needed to form a successful product. Both coaches from the previous year stepped down, but the program was passed to a familiar face.
Mario Sategna had been an assistant coach for the Longhorns for the last decade, establishing himself as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches. But he never left for another job, and with the merger, he finally got the offer he desired.
“It was a dream come true,” Sategna said. “This is where I always wanted to be,”
But how did one man, with no head coaching experience, take over a program that had recently doubled in size?
He recruited, arguably, the best staff in the country.
“You want to go after people that have similar philosophies that work well,” Sategna said. “My thing was to go out and find the right fit for Texas.”
Sategna immediately pitched Tonja Buford-Bailey, a three-time Olympian, to be his associate head coach. She already had a women’s head coaching job at the University of Illinois, but the allure of Texas proved too much to pass up.
“I was to the point where I had outgrown my position there,” Buford-Bailey said. “I felt like I would have a better opportunity in recruiting to be able to get a foot in the door with some of the best athletes in the nation.”
When searching for a throwing coach, Sategna looked no further than an old teammate from his days at LSU, Ty Sevin. Sevin was the head coach at University of New Orleans, but, like Buford-Bailey, he couldn’t say no to the opportunity at Texas.
To round out his staff, Sategna recruited Kareem Streete-Thompson, another former Olympian. Streete-Thompson previously served at the University of Missouri coaching sprints, hurdles and horizontal jumps — the same role he holds at Texas.
Sategna assembled a decorated staff, but the team could not function unless Sategna let his coaches work unimpeded.
“The main thing for them this year was just to have them recruit and coach and me to take on more of an administration role,” Sategna said.
The trust he’s built with his staff has gone a long way.
“The greatest thing about it is that he trusts me and my operations on a daily basis,” Buford-Bailey said. “That makes it a lot easier for me.”
Sategna understood one man could not handle such a large team by himself, nor could he micromanage his staff once they were in place. For optimal performance, he placed faith in his staff, just like he does with his athletes.