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‘I look forward to being a steward of this program’: WKU hosts introductory press conference for new head coach Hank Plona

Eli Randolph
Hank Plona (middle) accepts his jersey on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Plona, former assistant coach of Hilltopper basketball, was announced as the new head coach of the WKU basketball program.

WKU held its introductory press conference for new men’s basketball head coach Hank Plona on Wednesday, April 3 at Diddle Arena, introducing him as the 17th head coach in the program’s history.

“I’m blessed, I’m honored and I’m very appreciative to be named the head coach here at Western Kentucky,” Plona said. “I look forward to being a steward of this program, to helping this program continue to move forward, and build on the success that we had this year.”

Plona is taking over the reins following Steve Lutz’s single year on the Hill. Lutz, a true one year wonder for WKU, led the Hilltoppers to a Conference-USA tournament championship and a bid in the NCAA tournament before taking over at Oklahoma State. 

“When you look where we were a year ago, and where we are now, Steve deserves all the credit in the world,” Athletic Director Todd Stewart said. “He did a phenomenal job.”

Plona, who spent last season as an assistant under Lutz, has eight years of head coaching experience at the junior college level. At Indian Hills Community College, Plona won 85.6% of his games and led the Warriors to seven NJCAA tournament appearances. 

“When we hire a head coach, among the many qualities we look at are, number one, do they have winning experience as a head coach,” Stewart said. “The 86.5% [winning percentage] would be a resounding yes.”

Plonas teams at Indian Hills hosted a similar fast-paced playstyle to last season’s Hilltopper squad, as over Plonas eight years with the Warriors his teams averaged 86.9 points per game. 

“We’re going to continue to play a fast style,” Plona said. “My teams at Indian Hills never averaged less than 81 points a game so we’ll try to make sure that we continue to play up and down.” 

However, Plona said that he will add his own styles of coaching while continuing the fast paced game Lutz brought to Diddle arena last season. 

“I tell these guys all the time, if you try to be anybody but yourself you will fail,” Plona said. “I’m going to be me, I’m going to have my personality, it’s a little bit different than coaches [Lutz] for sure.” 

Before his eight years at Indian Hills, Plona spent time as an assistant coach at South Plains College, Arkansas Fort Smith and held a graduate assistant role at Providence college. 

Plona’s contract extends to June 30, 2028 with an annual salary of $500,000. The contract includes incentives such as $150,000 for both C-USA regular season championships and NCAA tournament bids, $50,000 for C-USA coach of the year awards and 50% of total ticket revenues in excess of $1 million. 

Lutz’s annual base salary exceeded Plonas by $150,000, however Lutz’s incentives for both a C-USA regular season championship and an NCAA tournament appearance sat at only $100,000 each according to the Approval of Athetic Employment Contract from May 4, 2023.

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