Missouri State University is now without a women’s basketball head coach. The school announced Monday the firing of Nyla Milleson after six seasons at MSU.
The school said Milleson’s contract, which had two years remaining, had been “canceled.” When MSU hires a new coach, Milleson will receive a buyout of $140, 000.
Director of athletics Kyle Moats said he recommended the move to school president Clif Smart. Moats informed Milleson of the decision on Sunday. Players found out on Monday.
Moats said he’ll work with a search committee to find a new coach but will make no further comments on the position until the new coach is hired.
He’s confident MSU will receive worthy applicants.
“This is a great opportunity,” Moats said. “We have tremendous facilities with a great fan base. We have something you can’t buy – tradition. We’re also in a league that you can win in.”
Moats mentioned three key areas the program will focus on going forward:
- Getting to the NCAA Tournament
- Attracting better recruits
- Increasing season tickets
Moats was asked why Milleson, who posted three 20-win seasons at MSU, was fired while football coach Terry Allen was retained last fall. The football Bears have had just two winning seasons (6-5 in 2007 and 2009) since Allen was hired in 2006.
Moats said there were several factors, including the team losing one of the “top players in the country” in quarterback Trevor Wooden before the start of the 2012 season. Moats cited the team’s improvement near the end of the season, and that 17 starters return for 2013.
Perhaps most importantly, Moats said “monetary” issues had an impact on the decision to keep Allen compared to firing Milleson.
A lack of postseason success and dropping attendance were key factors in Milleson’s undoing.
The Lady Bears never made the NCAA Tournament under Milleson, reaching the Women’s NIT the last three consecutive years. Missouri State, behind one of the best players in program history in senior Casey Garrison, won the regular season Missouri Valley Conference title last season before losing to Creighton in the conference tournament semifinals.
“Our fans expect conference titles, to play and win postseason games, and for our team to play harder and smarter than the opponent,” Smart said.
The Lady Bears averaged about 2,600 in attendance for home games this season, the lowest mark in two decades.
Under Milleson, the Lady Bears were 3-6 in the MVC Tournament and lost their opening game four times.
Milleson entered the 2012-13 season with a five-year record of 91-70. But the Lady Bears struggled to a 14-17 overall record this winter, finishing eighth in the MVC and losing to Drake in the play-in round of the conference tournament.
Missouri State’s last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2006.
Milleson was previously a head coach at Glendale High School (1992-99) and Drury (1999-2007). Her husband, Brent, is the current girls’ basketball coach at Ash Grove High School.
The next head coach will be the seventh in the history of the MSU women’s basketball program. Senior associate director of athletics Casey Hunt will oversee the day-to-day duties of the program until a new coach is hired.
The Lady Bears’ entire coaching staff will not return as well, Moats said. Assistant coaches Trish Marsh, Bethany Creed, Christopher Lewis and director of basketball operations Steve Yang will be paid their remaining salaries until the end of the fiscal year, which is June 1.