Mama said there'd be days like this, Ken.
Less than 24 hours after his team was defeated on a basket scored by a Louisiana-Lafayette squad with six players on the floor, Western Kentucky head coach Ken McDonald has been fired.
"I have recommended to President Gary Ransdell that Ken McDonald no longer serve as our head men's basketball coach, and he has agreed and supports my decision," said WKU athletic director Ross Bjork. "President Ransdell and I met with Coach McDonald this morning to inform him of the decision, and then we met with and informed the entire men's basketball staff. I also met with our student-athletes and discussed the reasons for our conclusion and told them that we are committed to all of them as students and athletes here at WKU, and we owe them the ‘great program' they signed up for."
McDonald was in his fourth season at WKU, where he had compiled a career record of 67-47. He led the Hilltoppers to a 25-9 record and a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09, his first season in Bowling Green. It was the only time he led the 'Tops to the big dance.
Assistant Ray Harper will coach the rest of the season on an interim basis. Harper spent 12 seasons as the head coach at Kentucky Wesleyan and Oklahoma City University before coming to WKU in 2008. He won four NCAA Division II national championships, but does come with the baggage of being at the helm at KWC when the program was found to have used two ineligible players during the 2002-03 season. Wesleyan was forced to vacate its 2003 Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and was placed on three years' probation.
McDonald becomes the fourth Division-I head coach to either resign or be fired already this season. It's a disturbing trend, especially in a situation like McDonald's where he was handling a team boasting seven freshmen. Unless a coach has blatantly crossed some easily identifiable line, it's hard to see the benefit of a mid-season firing.
WKU's last three hires - McDonald, Darrin Horn and Dennis Felton - have all been high-profile assistants with no previous head coaching experience. It will be interesting to see if they go in that direction again, or opt in favor of a guy like John Pelphrey, who coached in the SEC and has local ties. Of course if Harper can somehow get this thing turned around and take the 'Tops to the tournament then it will be next-to-impossible to send him on his way, especially considering the fact that he's already wildly popular in Bowling Green.
This will definitely be a situation worth keeping an eye on throughout the season, as WKU is without doubt one of the top mid-major coaching jobs in college basketball.