The men’s basketball team is starting its season without a coach.
Head Coach Dionne Phelps announced Oct. 7 he was leaving to be the assistant coach at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. His last day was Oct. 9.
“The timing is very poor,” Athletic Director Jim Abbott said. “I’m upset for the team to have to go through this change just a month before the first game.”
Officials are searching for a new coach and already have a few candidates, Abbott said. He refused to name those candidates.
Practices for the season started Oct. 12. A temporary assistant coach is leading the practices until a new coach is hired. The team doesn’t have a full-time assistant coach because of budget cuts a couple years ago, Abbott said.
Players said they are disappointed Phelps left but they understand.
“He’s one of the main reasons I’m here,” Junior Guard Jordan Mason said. “It hurts, but I’m thankful for him giving me this opportunity.”
When Phelps announced his departure to the players he told them he had to do it for his family, Mason said.
“It just sucks,” Mason said. “At least he explained to our faces like a man should.”
Phelps said he loves his players and the people he worked with and he was sad to go.
“It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my coaching career,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity given to me by Jim Abbott and President Henry and to be a part of such a special place.”
Phelps is from San Antonio, Texas, and has coached for 26 years. He became head coach at OCU in 2011 after serving as the University of Oklahoma’s assistant coach for five seasons. His previous coaching experience includes the University of Texas in San Antonio, Texas State University in San Marcos, Baylor University in Waco, and Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.
The team’s first pre-season game is during Homecoming at 2 p.m. Nov. 7 against Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Continue to check MediaOCU.com for updates.