One day after basketball coach Billy Donlon said Wright State fired him, the university still would not confirm the move.
“I will comment as soon as I can,” athletic director Bob Grant said when reached on campus Thursday afternoon.
Speaking by phone from Chicago, Donlon declined further comment, saying it would be inappropriate to say anything before the university does.
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Donlon compiled a record of 109-94 in six seasons, including 22-13 this year while leading the Raiders to the Horizon League championship game for the third time in four years.
The delay in announcing the move appears to be an issue with finalizing the terms of the separation agreement with two years remaining on Donlon’s contract.
Grant told Donlon he would not be back last Friday, but the players had not been informed when they began seeing rumors on social media Wednesday, prompting Grant to address the team in a meeting.
“He apologized that we had to hear it there first,” senior guard Joe Thomasson said. “The news wasn’t supposed to come out, but it got out so he called us in.
“I was shocked,” Thomasson added. “I was at a loss for words. Speechless.”
Many fans, coaches and analysts have criticized both the decision to fire Donlon as well as the manner in which the university has handled the situation.
Xavier coach Chris Mack had some of the strongest words yet during his press conference Thursday in St. Louis on the eve of the Musketeers’ NCAA Tournament opener.
“It’s a bad decision,” Mack said. “I don’t know their athletic director. We’re in a results-oriented business. Unless there was some scandal — and I know Billy, and that’s not the case — he should not have been let go.
“The guy wins 22 games this year, 13 conference games, which is the most in the history of the school, goes to the championship game three years in (four) in the Horizon League, graduates his players,” Mack continued. “I don’t know who Wright State is pretending to be or trying to be, but that’s ridiculous.”
Thomasson said he didn’t want to get into the specifics Grant gave the players about the reason for the move, saying it was a private conversation, but the Dayton native said he didn’t agree with the decision.
“He’s one of the best coaches in the country,” Thomasson said. “His knowledge of the game is unbelievable, and his passion for the game is ridiculous. I learned so much from him in my two years here.
“And he’s an even better person than he is a coach,” Thomasson continued. “That’s what I’m going to remember most about him. I know I’ll have a bond with him for the rest of my life. My career is over, but this just sucks for him. I hate to see him go after how much hard work he put into it and how much love he has for Wright State.”
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