By Marina Bifsha
Some of Loyola University Chicago’s mens basketball team players reacted with a mix of surprise, sadness and hopefulness for the future with the recent firing of longtime head coach Jim Whitesell.
Loyola recently fired Whitesell after seven seasons on the job.
According to Loyola Student Dispatch, Whitesell’s departure was an effort to upgrade Loyola’s stature in Division I athletics. It recently completed a new $26 million training center for athletes, Norville Center for Intercollegiate Athletics, and hired a new athletic director, M. Grace Calhoun, who has served as the Associate Athletic Director for Academic and Student Engagement at Indiana University for the last six years.
“After extensively assessing the future of the program, including input from student-athletes and other key stakeholders, I felt a change was in the best interest of the program,” said Calhoun at Loyola Ramblers.
Some players were surprised by Whitesell’s departure.
“The firing was totally unexpected for me and I think for everyone just because he had a whole extra year on his contract and we didn’t hear any news of it before hand,” said sophomore forward Shaun Adams, 20.
“He had good moments coaching and we surprised some teams that thought they would beat us,” Adams said. “He also cared a lot about our academics; he made us go to study hall quite a bit.”
Other players seem to agree with that change and they believe it will benefit them individually and as a team.
“He was a good coach but very opinionated sometimes,” said junior guard Courtney Stanley, 20. “I believe his departure was part of the change of the athletics program; we have new facilities, a new gym is coming up, and a new athletic director. I think it was a good choice and it will help us win more games.”
Another player had a similar opinion on Whitesell’s dismissal but in a personal perspective.
“He was a different person on and off the court,” said junior guard Jordan Hicks, 20. “His criticism on the court was constructive, but off the court he was a very understanding person. He helped me through personal issues and he was very supportive during my injury time.”
Calhoun said she wants to move quickly to name a replacement.
Chicago Breaking Sports is reporting that Loyola has hired former college coach Eddie Fogler to handle their basketball search and are planning to conduct their interviews at the Final Four in Houston next week.
Chicago Breaking Sports says Loyola’s wish list includes Michigan State associate head coach Mark Montgomery, who is also interviewing for the NIU job, and Indiana assistant Tim Buckley. There are also reports that Isiah Thomas is interested in the position, although a source close to the university said he did not believe the school had any interest in the NBA Hall of Famer, who is currently the head coach at Florida International, Chicago Breaking Sports reports.
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