March 21, 2012 12:16:34 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Murray State University Athletics Director Allen Ward isn't thrilled with the process Mississippi State University and the Parker Executive Search firm are using to find the Bulldogs' next men's basketball coach.
According a report from WPSD-TV in Paducah, Ky., Ward said the search firm MSU hired reached out to Murray State men's basketball coach Steve Prohm last week to gauge his interest in the Bulldogs' open position. Ward is upset by the timing of the contact. The Racers, who received a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, were still playing. Ward said no executive from MSU has contacted him for permission to speak with Prohm, which is a professional courtesy rather than a mandate. Prohm still has three years left on his contract. He led the team to a 58-41 victory against Colorado State on Thursday in the first round before Marquette ended Murray State's season with a 62-53 victory Saturday.
"I think there's a right way to do things," Ward said Tuesday to WPSD. "Considering we were still playing, it is what it is."
CBS Sports college basketball national writer Gary Parrish quoted anonymous sources saying Prohm was "the leading candidate" to fill the vacancy at MSU.
It is typical for search firms to contact coaches while their teams are still playing in the postseason. MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin laid out a possible plan Thursday after Rick Stansbury announced his retirement as MSU's men's basketball coach after 14 years
"They can do a lot of groundwork and make connections, especially in a situation where people are playing and you want to be respectful, but you also want to put feelers out," Stricklin said Thursday about hiring a search firm. "I think sometimes, especially in basketball, that's helpful."
Stricklin didn't return multiple text messages and voice mails left by The Dispatch.
Stansbury announced his retirement two days after his team his team lost to the University of Massachusetts 101-96 in double overtime in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Humphrey Coliseum.
Less than a day after Stansbury ended his 22-year run at the school, MSU officials confirmed to The Dispatch that it would hire the Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search.
Multiple sources close to the situation Tuesday confirmed to The Dispatch that Oral Roberts University men's basketball coach Scott Sutton wasn't and won't be interviewed for MSU's opening despite the fact a Tulsa television station reported otherwise. Sources told The Dispatch executives at Parker Executive Search were displeased news leaked about Sutton's interview with the University of Nebraska for their opening and canceled any plans to talk to Sutton. Nebraska also hired Parker Executive Search to assist it in hiring a new men's basketball coach after Doc Sadler was fired after six seasons.
Ward told WPSD-TV Prohm immediately informed him and other school officials of the search firm's initial contact and the two had a long meeting Tuesday to discuss a contract extension, with a substantial raise, to keep Prohm at Murray State.
"There's a great chance he'll stay," Ward said to WPSD-TV. "In the end, I think he'll be back."
After going through one of the most memorable seasons in Murray State men's basketball history, Prohm was adamant after his team's third round loss Marquette he would return to Murray, Ky.
"I'll be back," Prohm said in the Saturday postgame news conference. "I love Murray, and I want to be at Murray. We signed a great class, and we have great kids coming back. We have a great future."
Prohm, who took over at Murray State last May when Billy Kennedy left for Texas A&M, figures to be a hot name in the coaching search carousel after guiding the Murray State, picked to finish third in the Ohio Valley Conference, to a 31-2 record. The Racers won the regular-season and conference tournament titles, and their third NCAA tournament game
in school history. They were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 since December.
Prohm, 37, was the lead recruiter and a key part of one of Murray State's most successful periods from 2006-11, which included three straight OVC regular-season championships (2009-12 seasons). He also was part of Murray State's 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament. Murray State beat Vanderbilt in 2010 for its second NCAA tournament win in program history.
Prohm has strong recruiting ties to the state the of Mississippi. He signed guard Isaiah Canaan, of Biloxi, who averaged 19.1 points per game this season. Canaan was a 2012 first-team Sporting News All-America selection and the OVC Player of the Year.