- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Less than 10 minutes into his introductory news conference Thursday morning, new Texas Longhorns men's athletic director Steve Patterson was asked to name the biggest challenge he faces. He looked down, pushed up his right sleeve and pointed to his watch.
"I've been here, what, 15 minutes now?" he said with a smile.
In his first public comments since agreeing Tuesday to leave Arizona State and replace retiring AD DeLoss Dodds, Patterson faced a bevy of questions about the changes, both short- and long-term, that could be coming for Texas. His answer was consistent: He's not interested in making changes just to make changes.
"I don't see, as I have other places where I've taken over organizations, that we need a dramatic turnaround," Patterson said. "I don't anticipate monstrous changes to the department. I think we need to keep doing what we do well and find places where we can grow and do a better job of things we can improve on."
The most obvious, immediate issue facing Patterson will be the future of football coach Mack Brown and basketball coach Rick Barnes. University president William Powers insisted the future of Texas coaches and their programs were not discussed during Patterson's interview with him and the search committee Sunday.
"We did not discuss plans or make plans for any programs. That was not part of the interview process," Powers said. "We certainly discussed the history of some of these programs and we talked about athletics, but we did not have any discussions about programs."
Patterson did not address those topics Thursday, other than to say he needs to spend time evaluating what he is inheriting when he begins the job before he reaches any conclusions. Asked about reports that he removed as many as 100 people from their jobs while at Arizona State, Patterson said coaches and assistants typically come and go but that larger structural changes were necessary.
"We did make changes at ASU. I think it was a culture that, in some respects, had to change," Patterson said. "We had to awaken the slumbering giant. My approach was generally not to make change for the sake of making change. But when you lay out a vision and you have goals and expectations, people in the organization need to meet those expectations. So we hold people accountable.
"I look at it as the only way we're going to be successful at all the objectives we're going to have is if everybody is pulling in the same direction and doing their job. That's from the guys mowing the lawn to the guys sitting in the navy seat."
Patterson, 55, earned his business and law degrees at Texas and said he's proud to be coming home to his alma mater. His hiring will not be made official until it receives the approval of the UT System Board of Regents during its meetings Nov. 12-13. After that, he said he expects to take over for Dodds in the "next couple of weeks."
He plans to return to Arizona State next week to meet with ASU president Michael Crow and wrap up his immediate duties before making the move to Austin.
Dodds, who has served as Texas' athletic director for 32 years, will move into a consultant's role as a special assistant to the president, similar to the position former coach and AD Darrell Royal held upon retirement.
Pamela Willeford, former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein and former chairwoman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, served on the advisory committee to select the new athletic director and said the group knew right after he interviewed that Patterson was the right choice.
"I think that we all, on the committee, immediately thought and had the sense that he would be a good fit," Willeford said.
Powers made it clear during the interview process, Willeford said, that he intends to maintain Texas' athletic department structure and keep women's AD Chris Plonsky in her current role.
Any potential restructuring would be one of many big-picture issues facing Patterson, including establishing a plan for the Longhorns' next basketball arena.
Patterson touted what he's taking over at Texas as "the premier athletic department in the country."
"I don't see this is 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 and great people who've been working in it for a long time. I just hope to continue to grow that."
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