NMSU bumps coach

It's official, Nikita Lowry is no longer the head coach of the New Mexico State women's basketball team. Lowry, who had not been on the bench since Dec. 20 when she was placed on administrative leave, has been reassigned within the athletics department

Athletics director Brian Faison announced Monday that Lowry is now an assistant athletics director.

"We have had lengthy discussions with Nikita Lowry and I feel at this time that reassignment is the most expeditious manner for the program to move forward," Faison said. "(Her) contract allows me to do that.

Lowry will have specific duties within the department, although Faison did not elaborate on the details.

"There are some areas that need addressed but haven't been because of staffing," NMSU's AD said. "She'll work on those areas."

He said that Lowry was informed last week that this action might be taken.

"We continue to try and make this situation work," he said. "But this has been a protracted situation and it is time to move on."

He said he did not know if Lowry would actually show up for work at her new job or if she planed to take any vacation days. He also said he would not speculate as to what action might be taken against Lowry if she fails to perform her new duties.

Faison said that a national search for a new coach will begin immediately, but he does not expect to hire anyone right away. NMSU men's assistant coach Elmer Chavez is currently the interim head coach with former men's assistant Greg Berry as his assistant.

Lowry's assistant Marlene Stollings, who was named interim coach and ran the team from December to last week, walked off the job Feb. 4 with the rest of the staff because the Lowry situation had not been resolved. Faison said the coaches' actions were considered resignations.

The AD said he did not know if either Chavez or Berry was interested in applying for the job on a full-time basis but did say that either man would probably make an excellent coach.

State law requires that the university interview at least two candidates for the job.

As for Lowry, she has retained the services of a lawyer from Philadelphia. On Sunday, her former players spoke to the media about the coaching situation and accused Lowry of being physically and mentally abusive.

Lowry has not returned phone calls from the Sun-News, but she addressed the issues with the Associated Press

Princess Moore, a guard, said Lowry grabbed her by the hair once during practice and screamed an expletive at her.

Lowry told The Associated Press late Sunday she does not recall the incident and it was brought to her attention weeks later.

'This incident supposedly happened on December 4th, and I didn't know anything about it until December 20th,' she said.

At the news conference, forward Jenean Ford complained: 'They took our cell phones away.'

Lowry said players broke curfew talking on the phones into the early morning hours. Assistant coaches doing bed checks heard them and removed cell phones, Lowry said.

Ford also complained coaches kept ordering her hamburgers even though they knew she hated hamburgers. They did it, she said, 'just to spite me.'

Lowry said the team budget made food selection limited.

'Everybody ate the same thing,' Lowry said by phone from her Las Cruces home, 'and it wasn't hamburger all the time.'

Cherizard, of Montreal, said she's allergic to eggs, but coaches kept ordering eggs for her, telling her: 'Take the eggs off or don't eat it.'

Lowry said they stopped the eggs when they learned of her allergy.

On her birthday, Cherizard said she showed up for practice ill. When she told trainer Paula Henrie she could not practice, Lowry made her run more than the other players, she said. Even though she vomited more than once, she was the only player Lowry ordered to run up and down stairs, Cherizard alleged.

'She kept making me run. I saw stars and I fell on the ground. Paula picked me up and said, 'I'm taking her to the hospital,'' the player said.

Both Lowry and Stollings denied making Cherizard run stairs, but said she had to climb stairs to get to the bathroom.

'She came to me and told me she was ill,' Lowry said. 'I sent her over to the trainer. If the trainer knew she was ill, it's the trainer's job to take her out of practice.

' The player said the hospital diagnosed a kidney infection.

Lowry said none of the coaches knew Cherizard was seriously sick until the diagnosis.

'When I took the job I knew it was going to be a very difficult challenge to run a program that had been losing for five years,' she said. 'There were some things we needed to change.'

One thing about losing, she said: Do it long enough, and 'it almost becomes acceptable.'

'Turn the Aggies into the Sun Belt Conference champions, that was my goal,' she said. 'I've been blessed to be a part of some very successful teams. The common denominator on success is hard work and discipline.'

'As a coach, sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions. I am not here to be their friend,' Lowry said.

The team had its problems, she said. Two players had been pregnant, one had alcohol poisoning.

'There were players talking back, throwing balls up into the stands, missing practice. Unacceptable behavior,' she said. 'I'm the type of coach that tries to keep everyone accountable for their actions.

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