No official response leaves interpretation for coach firing

April 25, 2016

Jonathan Toman
[email protected]

I’ve been backed into a corner.

Last week, The Scribe reported that women’s basketball head coach Shawn Nelson’s contract had been terminated due to a violation of the terms of his contract.

In the interest of telling the full story, I reached out to athletics on several different levels.

I had a fairly candid conversation with a player on the team. The next day, she informed me via email that athletics had told her to relay this message: “you can’t use anything in your article that I said about coach Nelson.”

In the interest of getting an official response from UCCS, I reached out to Jared Verner, assistant athletic director for sports information.

In a conversation with Verner, I was told unequivocally that I would not be able to chat with anyone in athletics, on the record or not, and that no other media outlet would be afforded a conversation, either.

The unfortunate thing about all this is that without official word from anyone in the university, the reason for Nelson’s firing is left up for interpretation.

Nelson was 47-17 in his two seasons as head coach and led the team to two appearances in the NCAA national tournament, the first appearances in program history. The best years of the program came under Nelson.

His removal comes after former head coach Corey Laster was fired in spring 2014, after four seasons at the helm. He went 59-51 in total, improving the team’s record in three of the four seasons.

Clearly, there’s been more to both of these firings than success on the court, because both were successful.

As a general rule in sports, coaches who are successful keep their job. Both Nelson and Laster’s firings don’t fit the bill. More questions than answers remain.

The new hire, when it comes, will be the third coach since 2013-14, and the third for some of the players on the team. The program wins, but can’t seem to keep a head coach, and it’s up to everyone’s best guess as to why.

The Scribe received a phone call from a parent who has a young athlete interested in coming to UCCS to play women’s basketball. After following our coverage, he wanted to know the full story.

We couldn’t tell him, because we don’t know. The best we could do was forward him on to athletics.

I’d rather that this story be told fairly in the news section, with well-developed and full coverage of why this happened and what the next steps are.

But I’m in a corner, so here’s a column.