McDonald Named Coach At WKU

Texas assistant coach Ken McDonald
will take over as head coach at Western Kentucky.
McDonald replaces Darrin Horn, who left last week to become the
head coach at South Carolina.
McDonald, 38, spent the last four years at Texas under Rick
Barnes. He previously worked as an assistant at Western Kentucky
under Dennis Felton from 1998-2003, helping the Hilltoppers make
the NCAA tournament during his final three seasons with the
program.
"I really believe that this program has no ceiling," McDonald
said after being introduced Sunday afternoon. "During the
interview process I told them I think it would be a big mistake if
you put a ceiling on this program because as much as we did when I
was here, as much success recently as Western has had, I don't
think it has to stop."
The Hilltoppers went 29-7 this season, winning the Sun Belt
Conference tournament and advancing to the regional semifinals of
the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years before falling
to UCLA.
The Hilltoppers didn't wait long to begin courting McDonald, who
was among a handful of candidates on athletic director Wood Selig's
short list. McDonald first met with university officials on Friday
night and again Saturday morning, then sweated it out in a local
hotel while the selection committee finished the interviewing
process.
"Yesterday felt like 75 hours long," McDonald said, who was
offered the job sometime around midnight Saturday.
McDonald beat out Florida assistant Larry Shyatt, Minnesota
assistant Vince Taylor and Western Kentucky assistant Scott Cherry
for what McDonald called the only job in the country he really
wanted.
McDonald's base salary will be $250,000, with performance
bonuses available should the Hilltoppers make the NCAA tournament.
The length of the deal has not yet been determined.
There was some speculation during the week that the school was
courting Bobby Knight. The rumor grew so strong Selig and
university president Gary Ransdell felt the need to address it
because they felt it was hampering the interview process.
Selig said there was never any "direct or indirect contact"
with Knight, who had reportedly been spotted in various parts of
south-central Kentucky during the week.
Instead the Hilltoppers went with someone who is 902 career
victories behind Knight, but has a special appreciation for the
opportunities that await one of the country's premier mid-major
programs.
"I think when I left here, there was some unfinished
business," McDonald said. "I think we need to have the attitude
that we'll take on anybody, anywhere at any time."
McDonald's ties to the university should help him rebuild
quickly. The Hilltoppers will lose four seniors to graduation,
including Sun Belt Player of the Year Courtney Lee.
This year's NCAA tournament berth was the 20th in school
history, and the position has become a stepping stone for many
coaches through the years. Former Western Kentucky coaches include
Felton, Ralph Willard and Clem Haskins, each of whom moved to
higher profile programs following their time with the Hilltoppers.
Selig, however, didn't mind gambling on another young coach.
McDonald's blend of charisma and his preaching of the up-tempo
style that Horn developed means the adjustment period should be
short.
"There are no guarantees that anybody will be around for the
long term anymore," Selig said. "So shouldn't we go after the
best possible person? If they have the type of success we want and
hope that they will, they're going to be very attractive throughout
their career here. Whether they elect to stay or to take another
opportunity, but that's just the chance you take when you hire
outstanding people."


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