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Shepherd fires basektball coach

March 06, 2001

Shepherd fires basektball coach



By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN W.Va. - Denny Alexander was fired at head basketball coach at Shepherd College on Monday, but it wasn't for anything he did. It was for the one thing that he failed to do.

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Alexander was relieved after losing an eight-year battle to give the Rams a winning program, it was announced at a press conference.

"We've struggled a bit over the past few years," Shepherd athletic director Monte Cater said. "We feel our program needs to be more competitive."

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Alexander's dismissal comes a week after Shepherd's first-round loss to West Liberty in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's tournament. It completed a 11-15 season, the Rams' seventh straight losing season under Alexander.

Shepherd compiled a 87-125 record under Alexander, including a 58-90 record in the WVIAC. His only winning season was 1993-94, his first at Shepherd, when the Rams were 14-11, including 11-6 in the league. The Rams got past the quarterfinal round of the league tournament only once in Alexander's tenure, in 1996-97 when they lost in the finals.

"Mr. Alexander has made many helpful contributions to Shepherd College, but the team has not demonstrated the level of competitiveness that we all expect for our men's basketball team here," Cater said in his announcement. "After a complete review of his tenure at Shepherd College, we have decided that the college must have new leadership in the program."

Alexander was unavailable for comment.

Alexander came to Shepherd after a three-year stint as an assistant at Mississippi. Before the stop at Ole Miss, he was the head coach and athletic director of Xavier (La.) College for 12 years, compiling a 212-129 record before leaving the school as the all-time winningest coach. He also served as an assistant at Central Michigan.

Cater said Shepherd will begin a national search for a coach. Meanwhile, Richard Lewis, Alexander's assistant, as been asked to remain with the program until a replacement is hired.

"We need to do something as quickly as we can," Cater said. "Signing period for basketball is April 7-15, so that doesn't give us a lot of time to search. We'd like to be able to do something to give the new coach the chance to come in and do his own recruiting and to give him time to get acquainted to the personnel and the program."

Besides the losing seasons, Shepherd was feeling the effects of its down cycle in the stands. The Rams play in the 3,000-seat Butcher Center, but have seen the home crowds shrink over the years.

"We think this is a good job," Cater said. "It is one of the best in the league. We have one of the best facilities and we have a great area for recruiting. We are in the middle of the pack in scholarship money, so it's tough to compete with some of the bigger programs. But we believe we can be more successful. This is a good enough job where I think we will have a lot of interest."

Cater said Shepherd's wish list would be for a coach "from a good program or someone who has been successful with a Master's degree because he will be required to teach a bit."

Despite the apparent need for a change, Cater, who coaches the football team, realized this was a day that every coach dreads.

"You always hope that you are never in this situation,'' Cater said. "That's the tough part of (the athletic director's) job. Still, we believe we can be more successful than we've been."

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