Men’s Head basketball coach Mike Burns has been dismissed from the university, announced interim athletic director Michael Westfall. “There is a term in his contract where we can terminate for convenience at anytime,” Wesftall said. “We exercised that term.” Westfall also told The Easterner that the firing could possibly affect recruits Burns had signed to play basketball for the Eagles next fall. “How we are handling that is that we’re allowing recruits or anybody that has signed with the team the option to opt-out of their letter of intent,” Westfall said. “It’s only fair.” According to Wesftall, the search for a new head coach began “an hour ago.” Also, head coaching positions at the university accept resumes year-round, which will help to speed-up the process. “We have a pool of people; we have not looked at that pool yet,” he said. “We’ll look at resumes as they come in because this thing is going to spread like wildfire. “I’m sensitive to the fact that we have the July recruiting period coming up,” Westfall continued. “Ideally, we’d like to have someone on board [by July].”
Wesftall also stated a search committee would be formed; however he did not have the details of the representation of that committee at the present time. Wesftall said the committee does have a certain kind of coach in mind. “We want someone that has a very disciplined approach to the game of basketball on the court and off,” he said. “We’re looking for someone that is very much system oriented. System coaches win at the Big Sky level and in many cases can trump talent.” Candidates with head coaching experience and recruiting experience will also be heavily considered, Wesftall said. Burns will receive a severance payout of three months of his yearly contract, which was $95,000. The pay will be taken out of a central account, rather than an operating budget, Wesftall said, which means there will no impact on the athletic department from a monetary standpoint. Burns was hired as head coach on April 1, 2004, replacing Ray Giacoletti, who accepted the head coaching position at Utah following the 2003-04 season. That year, the Eagles made their only appearance in the NCAA tournament. During three seasons with the Eagles, Burns compiled a 38-49 overall record, including a 22-22 record in Big Sky Conference play. This season, the Eagles finished 15-14 overall, but missed the Big Sky Conference tournament after finishing 8-8 in BSC play. Following the season, the Eagles lost sophomore star Rodney Stuckey, who declared for the NBA, as well as Omar Krayem and Michael Taylor, who both opted to transfer elsewhere.