The successful and tumultuous Wichita State coaching career of Jody Adams-Birch ended on Sunday with what the athletic department called an amicable parting of ways.
WSU turns to Linda Hargrove, 66, who coached the Shockers from 1989-98, to finish the season, according to a news release. Hargrove attended Sunday’s game against Illinois State. Athletic director Darron Boatright informed the team of the move after the game. Players were not available for interviews.
Boatright declined to say whether Adams-Birch was fired or resigned.
Assistants Kirk Crawford, Bridgette Gordon and Kaci Bailey will continue with Hargrove. Boatright, according to the release, will soon begin a coaching search to pick the successor to Adams-Birch, WSU’s most successful women’s coach.
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On Thursday night, WSU announced Adams-Birch was suspended for this weekend’s games while Boatright reviewed “information recently received about the women’s basketball program,” he said in a statement.
The recent decision of sophomore Ellie Lehne to transfer to a Division II school started events that led to the decision, several sources close to the program said.
Lehne met with Boatright to discuss her transfer and her teammates joined her on Tuesday to discuss the overall atmosphere of the team, according to the sources. The players boycotted practice that day, the sources said.
Lehne, from Bryon, Ill., is the second player to leave the team since early December. Sophomore Jyar Francis left the team to transfer closer to her home of Hammond, La., WSU said in a news release on Dec. 8.
Adams-Birch coached into her ninth season. The Shockers won the last game she coached, 74-67 at Evansville on Jan. 15.
She took three straight Shocker teams to the NCAA Tournament, winning three Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championships and three postseason tournament championships in those seasons.
The 2014-15 Shockers went 29-5 to set the school record for victories.
She finishes with a record of 161-115 at WSU. She is first on WSU’s career wins list.
But Adams-Birch’s tenure has also been known for complaints of mistreatment from players by Adams-Birch and her coaching staff. Four players quit after the 2014-15 season, WSU’s third straight season in the NCAA Tournament.
In that spring, WSU interviewed 38 people associated with the program. After the investigation, the university and Adams-Birch had agreed on changes within the program. Among those changes, players and coaches were to work with a consultant in sports psychology, and players were to have a more open line of communication with department administrators.
Adams-Birch is in the third year of five-year contract and is making around $260,000.
The financial aspects of Sunday’s move are unknown. Adams-Birch’s contract includes a buyout clause and an annuity, which grew by $75,000 a season, to be paid after the 2018-19 season.
The buyout clause calls for payment of her salary through the completion of her contract or $500,000, whichever is less, if her employment is ended for any reason other than “good cause.”
The contract states that WSU may, in its discretion, terminate the agreement at any time, as determined by WSU to be in the best interests of the program and the university, upon the occurrence of good cause.
“Good cause,” the contract states, would include gross professional or personal misconduct, refusal to perform duties, knowing and deliberate failure to properly supervise the coaching staff and provide oversight of the program.
Adams-Birch signed the five-year contract in 2014, one that called for annual automatic one-year extensions, unless WSU notified her of its intention to not extend.
Hargrove went 113-136 in her nine seasons with a top record of 17-14 in 1993-94.
Boatright and Hargrove will hold a news conference on Monday. Boatright thanked Crawford for leading the team in two games, both won by WSU.