MU Continues Search For New Men's Hoops Coach

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University Director of Athletics Bob Marcum announced earlier this month that Ron Jirsa will not be retained as head men's basketball coach of the Thundering Herd. "We appreciate the contributions that Ron has made and we wish him the best," Marcum said. Jirsa has served as head coach at Marshall for the past four seasons.

A screening committee for the head coaching position met last week and Marcum and Associate AD Jeff O'Malley of Marshall spent the weekend at the Final Four in Atlanta. One of the possible candidates is still in the national championship hunt in Donnie Jones, the senior associate head coach for Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators. He will not be interviewed officially until after the Gators game with Ohio State on April 2 in the national title contest, heard in Huntington on WRVC 930 AM. The Gators won the NCAA Championship last year and would be the first team to repeat since Duke in 1990-91. Jones was an assistant at MU for Dwight Freeman (1990-94) and Donovan (1994-96) and moved with Donovan to Florida in the 1996-97 season. Jones is a native of Point Pleasant, W.Va. and has a undergraduate degree from Pikeville (Ky.) College, where he played for Greg White, and a Masters from Marshall. He is the lead recruiter for Donovan at Florida.

Also on the list of possible Marshall coaches, according to inside sources, are former Virginia and Xavier coach Pete Gillen who is currently an announcer with CSTV and Westwood One; South Alabama head coach John Pelphrey, a former Donovan assistant at Marshall and Florida who is originally from Eastern Kentucky, which is near Huntington; former Arkansas coach Stan Heath, who was fired after reaching the NCAA Tournament but was 30-6 as the head coach of Kent State when MU was in the Mid-American Conference; and former St. John's, Boston University and George Washington head coach Mike Jarvis. Jarvis is rumored in the mix at Harvard while Heath is on the list at South Florida.

Jirsa, rumored to be joining Tubby Smith at Minnesota as a top assistant (a position he held for Smith at Tulsa and Georgia) was 43-74 at Marshall Marshall over four seasons, a winning percentage of .364. That is the worst winning percentage at Marshall since the 1920s. This year's average attendance at men's games at Marshall, 3,544 per game played at the Cam Henderson Center, is the worst since the building opened in 1981. Jirsa took over a Marshall program coming off probation that made the move to the more challenging Conference USA from the Mid-American Conference in his third season. Marshall posted a 13-19 mark this season (best wins mark under Jirsa) and were 7-9 in C-USA. The Herd won its first round game in the C-USA Tournament against UAB before falling to Memphis in the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., the first win for any MU coach in men's post-season action since 2004 at home over Eastern Michigan for Jirsa's team in the first round of the MAC tournament. The last win away from Huntington in the post-season was 2000.

Marshall hired Jirsa to replace Greg White, when the former Herd point guard left in the summer of 2003 for the head coaching job and Associate Vice President position at Division II University of Charleston. Jirsa had been Senior Assistant Coach for Oliver Purnell at the University of Dayton (1999-2003) for the previous four seasons and was headed to Clemson as an assistant for Purnell when the latter left the Flyer program for the Tigers head coaching position. Previously, Jirsa had posted a 35-30 record as the head coach at the University of Georgia from 1997-99, taking the Bulldogs to back-to-back NIT bids. He was an assistant for Tubby Smith, who left UGA for the Kentucky head coaching job. With Smith at Georgia and Tulsa, Jirsa helped Smith to four consecutive 21-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament bids. The first three of those advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tourney.

His overall record as a head coach is 78 wins and 104 losses at Marshall and Georgia. Jirsa coached in 27 post-season games, 16 of those in the NCAA Tournament, and appeared in post-season play following 13 seasons. He was an assistant at VCU when they beat the Thundering Herd in the 1985 tournament and also went to the NCAA with Tulsa (1986-87-94-95-96-97) and Dayton (2000 and 2003) and to the NIT with Georgia (1998 and 1999) and Dayton (2001 and 2002). Jirsa was also and assistant at Gardner-Webb (1990-91), Belmont Abbey (1988-89), Delaware (1983-84) and a graduate assistant at Virginia Commonwealth (1984-85).

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