Women’s basketball coach fired after five seasons
By Thomas Huitt-Johnson
March 6, 2012
After posting a 7-20 record this season, Missouri Western decided it was time to make a change for the head Women’s Basketball coach.
Lynn Plett was let go by Director of Athletics Kurt McGuffin late Friday evening, one day after Western’s season ended at the hands of top-seed Washburn at the MIAA Tournament. McGuffin, who was hired late October to lead the athletics department, stressed winning was very important to him, and letting Plett go showed how valuable the new AD feels winning is.
“Those decisions are not taken lightly and nor are they easy,” McGuffin said. “But it is a business about, ‘Are we progressing? And what are our ultimate goals?’”
Plett was at the helm for the past five seasons, and posted one winning season (14-13) in 2010. During this year, however, the women’s team faced plenty of hardship, which may have led to the firing.
The Griffons were forced to suspend players Ashleigh Curry and CC Bozeman for two games during the season for team disciplinary reasons.
Curry, who hadn’t played for Western in five years, was set to join this season but had problems securing a spot because she played for semi-pro team Livin’ the Dream during her hiatus. She received a two-game penalty for playing with the squad. The stall put Western in a bit of a funk, but it still climbed out of it during a 3-0 start to the calendar year.
However, shortly after the start of conference play, the Griffons lost starting forward Brittany Griswold for the season with a stress fracture in her foot, and went 2-12 to finish the year.
“Our ultimate goals are competing and wining,” McGuffin said, “providing an academic responsibility to the athletes we recruit; making them involved in the community as well. And at this point I didn’t think we were going to that nature and following those goals.”
Speculation started early into the season that Plett could possibly be the coach to succumb to a new AD. Typically, whenever a director of athletics is turned over to a new power, the man wants his own people to lead the coaching programs.
However, when McGuffin was hired, he pointed to strong coaching as a great part of Western athletics. He talked highly of coaches such as football coach Jerry Partridge, softball coach Jen Bagley and Men’s Basketball coach Tom Smith. All three have winning records at Western.
Plett finished his term 46-89. Still, no coach had dealt the troubles Plett faced when he was hired.
The Tabor College graduate took over a team that was 30-4 the previous season and ranked as high as No. 3 in the country, but the wins were vacated as the 2006-07 team played illegal players and provided over $1,000 of cash payments to players.
The MIAA Champions lost their banner, their tournament trophy and players/coaches. One player that stuck through the turmoil was star forward Jessica Koch.
The now former Griffon basketball player was recruited by Western following the successful season, but never played for the team once thought of as an NCAA national champion.
Instead, she was forced to play five seasons of the least winningest at Western. Koch took the hand she was served, however, and finished her career as the all-time leading scorer with 1,776 points. That was not enough to keep Plett as the women’s basketball coach.
Western has seen a decrease in attendance the past two seasons. In 2006, the Griffons were No. 3 in the nation in attendance. Following that year, Western finished eighth in 2007 and seventh in 2008. In 2009 the Griffons again ranked in the top-10, placing at No. 9. But since then, the attendance has spiraled down, causing McGuffin to think again about hiring a new coach.
“Revenue and budgets are tight,” McGuffin said. “I believe that our women’s basketball program has the capabilities to increase their attendance to help us. Our tradition is strong for women’s basketball here at Missouri Western.”
Before coming to Western, Plett coached at Lewis University, where he was Grand Lakes Valley Conference Head Coach of the Year and NCAA Region Four Coach of the Year. His career record stands at 321-323 overall.