Lady Topper head coach Cowles fired after 10 seasons

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles yells at her team at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament against FIU on Sunday, March 4 in Hot Springs, Ark. WKU lost 65-57. Cowles responded to questions about her future as WKU’s head coach following the loss. “My passion is to coach basketball,” she said. “If that’s their decision, we’ll move forward.”

Brad Stephens

For the first time in a decade, Mary Taylor Cowles is no longer head women’s basketball coach at WKU.

Cowles was fired on Thursday after 10 years at the helm of her alma mater.

Her firing came on the heels of a 2011-2012 season in which the Lady Toppers finished 9-21.

The 21 losses marked the most in program history for a single season.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork thanked Cowles in a university statement for “the dedication, time and sacrifices she and her family have given to WKU.”

“Moving forward, we must restore confidence, public support and the energy back to our basketball program,” Bjork said in the release. “…The process of identifying and hiring the best person to serve as our next head basketball coach will begin immediately.  

“We seek leadership that will enable us to recruit and motivate our student-athletes and help them develop personally and compete for championships each and every night. Our historic and proud program deserves nothing less.”

WKU’s season ended on Sunday when it was eliminated in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Quarterfinals by Middle Tennessee State, 66-57.

That loss marked the Lady Toppers’ 10th straight to the rival Lady Raiders.

When asked after the loss on Sunday if she was concerned she had just coached her last game at WKU, Cowles said, “My passion is to coach basketball. If that’s their decision, we’ll move forward.”

Coupled with its 15-17 record in 2010-2011, WKU recorded back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1973-1974 and 1974-1975.

Meanwhile the Lady Toppers drew an average 1,153 fans to its 13 games at Diddle Arena in 2011-2012.

That figure included the Jan. 4 game WKU played against Louisiana-Lafayette in which the team drew 3,414 fans, many of which were area middle schoolers taking a field trip to the game.

Not counting that game, WKU averaged 964 fans per home game.

Fans in Diddle saw the Lady Toppers go 6-7 at home, marking the team’s first-ever losing record in the building.

Cowles finished her WKU head coaching career with a final record of 199-119.

The three-time Sun Belt Coach of the Year ranks second in all-time Lady Toppers head coaching victories, trailing only WKU Hall of Famer Paul Sanderford, who won 365 games.

During her 10 years as head coach the Lady Toppers went to the NCAA Tournament twice, in 2003 and in 2008.

They were eliminated in the first round in both trips.

Cowles played for the Lady Toppers from 1988-1991, and was a member of three WKU teams which won Sun Belt Championships.

She finished her playing career with 1,072 points and ranks No. 31 on the school’s career scoring list.

Cowles also served as an assistant at WKU from 1995-2001.

She was a part of 10 NCAA Tournament teams during her 21 seasons as either a player, assistant or head coach.