Ross Bjork’s full comments on the firing of Mary Taylor Cowles

Ross Bjork met with the media Thursday afternoon to discuss his decision to fire WKU women’s basketball coach Mary Taylor Cowles after 10 seasons.

The news conference took place in the media room at Houchens Smith Stadium, with E.A. Diddle Arena occupied by the girls’ high school state basketball tournament. Here are Bjork’s comments about the decision:

Ross Bjork

“You could not ask anyone to run a first-class program the way coach Cowles has done that in her 10 years. We also understand that it’s our mission to provide a great athletic product that our community can be proud of. We have to compete for and win championships, and we must provide a great home-court atmosphere for our student-athletes. Similar to our men’s program, that’s what they signed up for.”

“It’s a must that we get our program back to the level that we all expect and restore the confidence on the court and in the community.”

“Coach Cowles will always be a Hilltopper. We thank her for her contributions to our program as a student-athlete, assistant and head coach. She has been a mentor, a leader, a great example. That’s why those factors make today very difficult. … She told me that she’s always going to be wearing red and waving her red towel.”

“We have dominated women’s college basketball. The Sun Belt Conference is in a great position, having two teams hopefully make the NCAA tournament three years in a row. We’ve got to get back to the top of our league, and we’ve got to get back to being a player in the women’s basketball community.”

“I know this job will be attractive. I know we’ll have top-flight candidates from all over the country. Our job will be to hire the best person. Our timeline will be dictated by choosing that right person, but we also know Signing Day is rapidly approaching in mid-April, and we have three open scholarships.”

“We weren’t performing at the level that we needed to and that we expect, and that our facilities and history can support. The personal side made it difficult because of what Mary stands for and what her character is all about.”

“Our history of attendance and packing the arena … is something that we’ve been lacking, in terms of an energy around the program. That was a factor. When they run out of the tunnel, they need to be inspired by our crowd. That was difficult, watching that this season.”

On current assistants remaining on staff  until new coach chooses his staff: “We’ll expect them to continue their jobs as they’ve been hired for – recruit, academics, basketball workouts.”

On Camryn Whitaker being ‘point person’ for the program in the interim: “We’ll have her deal directly with our players, with our recruits, dealing with running the program. We’re not naming an interim head coach, but she’s just the point person.”

On selling recruits without a head coach: “They’re signing up for the program. Yes, the head coach is important, but we’re having our staff speak about the program. We know we’re going to hire a great coach … so the message will be, ‘Stay with us.’”

“Our young ladies work their tails off every single day. We have great kids that want to compete and win, but we’re not winning games. They know that. We’ve got to find players that can have an impact and build around the nucleus we have coming back. I like the work ethic of this group. That was never an issue.”

Does this decision overshadow the men’s current success? “I think that stands on its own. That story stands on its own and is so powerful.”

Are previous ties to WKU taken into consideration for the coach:“You find the best person, and if they happen to have ties, that’s great. We’ll capitalize on that. But I think the best coach for our program is out there, and we will search nationally.”

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