News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 14, 2010

For ‘family reasons’: Indiana State made effort to keep coach, but McKenna decided to leave

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When Kevin McKenna was mulling a decision to leave the head coach position at Indiana State to take an assistant coach position at the University of Oregon late last week, ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman was at ... the University of Oregon.

Prettyman was in Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Track and Field Championships, but he spent some of his time in the Pacific Northwest trying to keep McKenna in the Midwest.

In the end, Prettyman’s efforts came to nothing. McKenna informed Prettyman over the weekend that he was going to leave the ISU program.

“The final word came in [Sunday] from Kevin when he told me. I had talked to him about him about it, he had been offered the position on Thursday or Friday and he called me in Oregon. He told me he thought he was going to take the job. I tried to talk him out of it, but he called me Saturday and said it was a done deal,” Prettyman said.

The done deal was announced officially by ISU on Monday via news release. McKenna did not speak to the local media and was not available at ISU Arena for questions.

Calls to McKenna and to Oregon coach Dana Altman’s cell phones on Monday were not returned as of press time.

McKenna’s only comment on the situation came via an ISU news release.

“I am announcing this resignation as head coach to join a good friend on a new challenge and will become part of Dana Altman’s staff at the University of Oregon. I have enjoyed prior success with Coach Altman, and I look forward to this next step,” said McKenna in the press release.

Prettyman said he had six phone conversations with McKenna late last week when it became apparent that McKenna was considering the job. When McKenna told Prettyman it was a done deal as of Friday, Prettyman wanted McKenna to give him 24 hours to work something out.

“I tried to ask him if it was any good for me to try and talk it through with him, but he said it was a good move for him and his family,” Prettyman said.

ISU had been working with McKenna to extend his contract before rumors began that McKenna was considering a move in late April.

Prettyman was aware of the possibility that McKenna might leave ISU when Dana Altman left Creighton to take the head coach position at Oregon in April and indicated he had a “Plan B in place for every position in his department”.

At that time, McKenna was mentioned as a candidate for Creighton’s job. Greg McDermott was hired instead. Rumors began two weeks ago that McKenna was considering the move to Oregon. Prettyman confirmed on June 4 to the Tribune-Star that Altman had contacted him about hiring McKenna.

Prettyman conceded that McKenna will make more money as an Oregon assistant coach. McKenna made approximately $200,000 per year as ISU’s head coach. Prettyman said he was unaware of any other catalyst within the ISU athletic department or university that might have convinced McKenna that it was time to move on.

“Not from my perspective. Kevin had just finished the third year of a five-year contract. I had met with Dr. [Daniel] Bradley to renegotiate an extension. As far as I was concerned, we were on good ground,” Prettyman said. “I believe Kevin saw an opportunity to work with someone he respects, who’s a very close friend, and at a place in Oregon that has nearly unlimited resources for a substantial increase in salary.

On Sunday, Omaha World Herald columnist Tom Shatel wrote on his Twitter feed that McKenna left for Oregon because, “... Apparently, ISU was cutting his budget.” Prettyman was unaware of the report and strongly denied it when asked if it was true.

“That’s a negative. This administration has been very supportive of, at the very minimum, stabilizing the budget. I never had one conversation with Kevin McKenna about cutting budget. We have ongoing conversations about doing things better when it comes to travel, when it comes to all kinds of stuff. Some were budget-related, but there’s no way his budget was going to be reduced. Our budgets have been approved and no budget reduction was in place for next year,” Prettyman said.

Prettyman was also asked if he believes McKenna’s move from a head coach to an assistant coach job reflects poorly on ISU athletics.

“I don’t think anyone who’s knowledgeable of this profession would necessarily consider it a downward move. It’s a very lucrative, visible position in the Pac 10. It will be a real catalyst to Kevin’s career,” Prettyman said.

“That’s not to say that what he could’ve done here couldn’t have been a catalyst as well. I asked Kevin point blank if I could talk to him about staying and was going to make the effort to do that, but he made the decision on behalf of his family and career,” Prettyman added.

Kevin McKenna’s statement

Kevin McKenna’s only comment on his resignation has been via an ISU news release. Here are his comments in their entirety:

“I would like to announce that I am resigning my position as Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Indiana State University, effective immediately.

“I am grateful to Ron Prettyman and the administration at ISU for giving me the opportunity to lead the Sycamore program the last three seasons. I am announcing this resignation as head coach to join a good friend on a new challenge and will become part of Dana Altman’s staff at the University of Oregon. I have enjoyed prior success with Coach Altman, and I look forward to this next step.

“I put all my energy into Indiana State while I was here, and I wish all the players in our program continued success. I am confident that ISU will continue to progress and reach the top of the Missouri Valley Conference. With our new recruits, our returning players and staff, and the support of the athletic department, I know that the program is in good shape with a promising future.

“The support of many Indiana State boosters and the friendships my family and I have made here in Terre Haute are much appreciated. I am excited about this new chapter in my life, and I wish only the best for ISU and the people of the Wabash Valley.”