WKU fans split on keeping McDonald

Cole Claybourn

WKU students and fans have had a few days to digest Monday’s announcement that Ken McDonald will return next season as head coach of the men’s basketball program.

The news settled better with some than others.

Centertown junior Nathan Bishop was one fan who saw McDonald’s return as a good decision. He said while this season may have been disappointing, he believes McDonald’s best seasons are ahead of him.

“The worst season he has had over the last three years was a .500 season,” Bishop said. “He has shown a step in the right direction by openly discussing the need to limit distractions and has brought in a great recruiting class.”

 McDonald told the media and fans at a press conference Monday that he and the team were “hitting the reset button.”

For McDonald, that also meant a reset on his contract. He agreed to take a $100,000 pay cut, reverting his salary back to $250,000 — the salary on his original contract when he took the job in 2008 — for the next four years.

McDonald acknowledged on- and off-court distractions caused by both the players and himself during his three seasons as head coach.

Scottsville junior Zack Rockrohr said some of the team’s problems this year were more reflective of the players than of McDonald, so he was glad to see McDonald given another chance.

“He took a pay cut, and he has a star-studded class coming in next year,” Rockrohr said. “I say give him another year or two.”

McDonald also apologized for any personal distractions that he caused during his tenure but didn’t elaborate on any specifics other than his recent divorce.

Former WKU student Shane Bearden said he was happy to see McDonald own up to his mistakes.

“It took a lot of guts and heart for McDonald to admit his mistakes both personally and professionally and own up to them,” Bearden said. “Maybe that’s what’s needed for this team to turn the corner, because what was going on within the program was not indicative of WKU basketball.

“Three years is a very short time for a measuring stick for a new coach. People were calling for (former coach Darrin) Horn to be let go after three seasons as well.”

But there are those who still aren’t fully on board with McDonald as the head coach.

Big Spring junior Dana Lucas said McDonald needs to prove he can keep those distractions away from the basketball court.

“I believe a successful coach is one who knows how to leave his personal issues, such as his divorce, outside of work,” she said. “He clearly admitted during the press conference that he was not capable of that.”

Jeff Howe, a WKU fan from Owensboro, said after hearing McDonald will remain as the coach, he doesn’t think he’ll be coming to any games next year.

“I stopped going to the basketball games this year and wanted to last year,” he said. “Ken McDonald has hurt the program bad enough that it won’t come back with him as coach. All the rumors about the things that have gone on can’t be all rumors.

“I thought he would be fired during this season and (Assistant Coach) Ray Harper would be coaching. I believe Harper is the man for the job.”

The idea of Harper as the head coach was a popular one among those opposing McDonald’s new contract this week. Lucas also endorsed Harper as the person she’d want leading the team.

Harper previously spent 12 years as head coach at Kentucky Wesleyan and Oklahoma City University.

“The head coach we need is already on our staff,” Lucas said. “Harper is our answer for the turnaround we’re looking for. He knows how to continually motivate our athletes on and off the court and more importantly in the classroom.”

But Versailles junior Becca Todd said in the end, she just wants what’s best for the program — whether that includes McDonald at the helm or not.

“I just hope McDonald is able to refocus himself and the team in the coming months to return the WKU basketball program back to where it should be,” she said.