SMU fires athletic director Steve Orsini
DALLAS (AP) — SMU athletic director Steve Orsini was fired Thursday, just four weeks after he and the Mustangs hired Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown.
The move was announced by SMU President R. Gerald Turner in a news release, and was effective immediately.
“After several discussions over the last few weeks, it became apparent to me that it was necessary to make this change,” Turner said. “While we both are committed to the support of our student-athletes and coaches, a unified effort is required for future progress in our athletics programs.”
Orsini had been SMU’s athletic director since 2006. In January 2011, he had been given a contract extension through May 2015.
Turner thanked Orsini for his contributions to SMU athletics and said a national search for a new AD would begin immediately. Tim Leonard, the senior associate director of athletics for external affairs, was named interim AD.
SMU is set to move from Conference USA to the Big East Conference in July 2013, a transition that Orsini was overseeing. TCU, the other NCAA Division I program in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had been set to go to the Big East but instead accepted an invitation to join the Big 12.
Before Brown, the other significant hire by Orsini at SMU was June Jones as football coach in 2008, bringing him in from Hawaii.
After going 1-11 in Jones’ first season, SMU ended a 25-year bowl drought the next year, in 2009. The Mustangs won the Hawaii Bowl for an 8-5 record, only their second winning season since the resuming play in 1989 after being the only team ever given the NCAA’s so-called death penalty.
On April 19, Orsini hired the 71-year-old Brown to his first college job in nearly a quarter century. That came as the coaching search was going into its sixth week and the school had already talked with potential candidates like Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Long Beach State’s Dan Monson and Rick Majerus from Saint Louis.
SMU hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1993 and hasn’t won a tourney game since 1988, the year Brown led Kansas to the national championship in his last season as a college coach. Brown, the only coach to win both an NBA championship and NCAA title, replaced Matt Doherty. SMU has plans for a $40 million renovation of Moody Coliseum and built a new practice facility during Doherty’s stint.
In December, Jones said he was very happy being SMU’s coach, even after he had been set to leave for Arizona State and had been contacted by multiple schools about vacant head coaching jobs. Before SMU’s appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl, Jones’ agent, Leigh Steinberg, believed there was an agreement in place for Jones to become Arizona State’s coach.
On Twitter at that time, Steinberg indicated a deal with Arizona State fell through at the last second. He called it “one of the most bizarre endings to a set of productive discussions to bring a client to a new situation.”
Jones said he had let SMU officials, players and recruits know what was happening, and that they understood completely “that this is a business.”
Since that 1-11 season, the Mustangs have gone 23-17 over the last three seasons (17-7 in Conference USA) with bowl appearances each year. Their bowl win in January was being Jones’ 100th victory as a coach.