McDonald on rocky season start: ‘put it on me’

With three minutes left in the game and his team 10 points down, head coach Ken McDonald yells instructions to his players. McDonald acknowledged after the loss to Denver that criticism is increasing. “There’s always pressure,” he said.

Zach Greenwell

After WKU’s 62-59 loss to Denver at home Thursday, Head Coach Ken McDonald was asked if he’s starting to feel any pressure for his job.

McDonald didn’t hesitate.

“Well, there’s more people in the media room than ever,” McDonald said with a grin, before turning more serious. “There’s always pressure. That’s my job. That’s why there aren’t many Division I head coaching jobs, and there certainly aren’t as many as good as this one. It’s my job and the coaching staff’s job to get us through this, and we’re going to.”

McDonald said the heat he’s currently taking for the Toppers’ 5-9 start to the season is the first time he’s had to deal with that level of criticism.

But he said he’s taking it in stride, while also doing his best to keep the players from becoming distracted.

“It’s our job to try to keep the negative part out of our guys’ heads, and that’s tough,” he said. “It’s tough in a small town, and obviously a program that is used to winning. Would I like it sooner? Would everybody like it sooner? Absolutely.

“But we’re going to find something to build on from this.”

For the first time this year, the crowd of 2,722 in Diddle Arena made their displeasure known with rounds of boos.

But McDonald urged fans after the game to hang on through the struggles.

“Just stay with us,” he said. “We have an incredible fanbase. You’ve got people that will be very supportive no matter what happens, and some will jump off the wagon. That comes with the territory, but put it on me. Don’t give up on the players. As leaders of the program, we’re going to get this thing turned around. These guys are working hard — more than you know behind the scenes — and eventually it’ll show up in the win column.”

It’ll be nine days before WKU returns to Diddle against Florida Atlantic, and McDonald said the Toppers have to have enough pride to prove their critics wrong.

He said he’ll try to do the same.

“It’s always personal — don’t ever think it’s not,” he said. “And I mean that in a good way. It motivates me as a coach to come out and do better. There’s no question this coaching staff is working hard, and the players. They hear it. They’re good kids. We’ve got good kids now, and we’ve got kids that want to win. We just haven’t put together the 40-minute effort.”

Depth chart keeps shrinking

McDonald said after the game that sophomore guards Jamal Crook and Caden Dickerson both suffered minor injuries against the Pioneers. Crook played 13 minutes before being helped off the court with what McDonald said he thought was a hyperextended elbow.

McDonald said Dickerson also took a hard hit on a screen during the game and was “hurting pretty bad” afterward.

The Toppers were already shorthanded — playing eight players against Denver — and were forced to leave four players on the court for 34 minutes or more.