Hours after the conference tournaments and regular-season games ended, the college basketball hiring and firing season began in
On Monday, Danny Nee was fired as Nebraska's coach after his team's worst finish in 10 years. Air Force said Reggie Minton's
contract won't be renewed.
Those moves came not long after Oregon State fired Eddie Payne. And Tom Abatemarco reportedly resigned as coach of Sacramento
Hired Monday by Kansas State was Chicago Bulls assistant Jim Wooldridge. John Calipari, former coach at Massachusetts and of the
New Jersey Nets, was hired by Memphis on Sunday.
Nee's termination is effective March 31 and the university will pay about $400,000 to buy out the remaining three years on his
"The best course for the University of Nebraska is to change coaches," athletic director Bill Byrne said.
Nee was Nebraska's winningest coach with a 254-189 record in 14 seasons, the longest career of any active Big 12 coach. But the
Huskers (11-19) lost every conference road game this season, then lost to Baylor in the first round of the conference tournament.
"It's just not one season or one incident," said Byrne, "it's an accumulation of things."
Another Big 12 team, the Kansas State Wildcats, filled the opening created by the resignation last week of Tom Asbury.
Wooldridge is a former head coach at Louisiana Tech and Southwest Texas. Sources said Kansas State offered Wooldridge a
five-year deal in the range of $400,000 per year, which would make him one of the lowest-paid head coaches in the Big 12.
"He has the reputation as an outstanding recruiter and has a history of being a turnaround artist at his previous coaching
stops," athletic director Max Urick said.
Asbury was 85-88 in six seasons for K-State.
The Sacramento Bee reported in an online update to its Monday newspaper that Abatemarco resigned at Sacramento State.
The Bee quoted from a letter, dated Monday, in which Abatemarco wrote to university officials that "due to personal reasons, I
will be unable to continue as head basketball coach, and am, therefore, resigning effective immediately."
Abatemarco reportedly had been under pressure because of strained relationships with some of his players, 14 of which left the program during Abatemarco's two-year tenure. The Hornets were 9-18 this season.
Oregon State was 13-16 this season, finishing Payne's five-year stint as coach. His record in Corvallis was 52-88, and his winning
percentage of .371 was the worst for an Oregon State coach in 80 years.
"Making changes in your program is never an easy thing to do, especially when it involves good people," athletic director Mitch
Barnhart said. "Sometimes the chemistry of teams and events don't always produce the success level you are hoping to achieve."
Although Minton was the co-coach of the year in the Mountain West, his Air Force team was only 8-20. Minton started as an assistant coach in 1969 and took over the Falcons in 1984, compiling a 150-295 record in 16 seasons. Minton left Air Force for one season in 1984 to coach Dartmouth.
Calipari, who left an assistant coach's position with the Philadelphia 76ers for Memphis, led UMass to the 1996 Final Four. In eight seasons at Massachusetts, Calipari was 193-71 and won five Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles.
"The cornerstone will be keeping the best players here," Calipari said. "We're also going to recruit nationally, because we want to be a national program, but the cornerstone will be here."
Memphis gave Calipari a five-year contract that will pay him $550,000 a year, with a base salary of $135,000, $135,000 for television and radio and $145,000 for public relations. He also has incentives worth up to $380,000 a year, including $300,000 if he wins a national title.