Stan Heath thinks of it as just another big step in the right direction.
Fresh off a 20-win season, with a new $10 million practice facility on the way, the USF men's basketball coach picked up another key asset Monday: stability.
Heath signed a new contract that gives him a 33 percent raise and extends his deal three more years through 2015, the Bulls said.
"It means a lot," said Heath, 45, who went 20-13 last year and is 41-54 in three seasons with the Bulls. "I'm very appreciative and very committed to taking this to a higher level. It helps our players and future recruits know we have stability and a university that is really behind us."
Heath, who led USF to its first postseason appearance in eight years in the NIT in March, had two years remaining on the contract he signed when he came to Tampa in 2007. Heath was making $675,000 a year under the original contract, but his new deal averages $900,000 a year.
The contract was signed by Heath, athletic director Doug Woolard and USF president Judy Genshaft on Wednesday, the final day of USF's fiscal year.
"I am very pleased to extend Stan's contract," Woolard said in a statement. "In just three years, he has been able to position our men's basketball program as a viable competitor within the Big East conference and nationally. Winning games in the best conference in America is no small feat, and to have us in the postseason in that period of time is one heck of an achievement."
Heath said Woolard had approached about an extension right after the Bulls' season finished with a loss to North Carolina State in the first round of NIT. USF went 9-9 in the Big East after winning no more than four games in any of its first four seasons in the league. The program took another step two weeks ago, when guard Dominique Jones became the Bulls' first NBA first-round draft pick.
By spring, Heath and women's coach Jose Fernandez will practice in the Pam and Les Muma Center, a multicourt practice facility being built on the south side of the Sun Dome. USF is working on plans for a major renovation to the 30-year-old arena, the next step after $33 million in facility upgrades to its athletic district in the next year.
As part of Heath's new contract, the pool for his assistants increases from $375,000 to $435,000, a 16 percent bump. Most of Heath's incentives went up as well, but in a new wrinkle, he cannot earn any of them if his team posts an annual APR score lower than the NCAA threshold of 925, or if his program faces any sanctions from the NCAA.
The new contract slightly lessens the penalty Heath would pay if he left in the final years of the deal. Under the previous contract, Heath had to pay $27,083 for each month left on the deal when he terminated the contract - that figure is the same until March 2013. In the final two years of the contract, his cost to leave the Bulls drops, to as low as $12,500 per remaining month in the final year.
Greg Auman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.