Beavers coach Wagner fired after player exodus

Beavers coach Wagner fired after player exodus

Published Jun. 2, 2010 2:43 a.m. ET

Oregon State has fired head women's basketball coach LaVonda Wagner after several losing seasons and a recent player exodus.

Wagner went 68-85 in five seasons as coach of the Beavers. This past season Oregon State was 11-20 overall and 2-16 in the Pacific-10 Conference.

Four players, including top scorer Talisa Rhea and top rebounder Kirsten Tilleman, were granted their release from the program in the space of a week in April. An assistant, Kellee Barney, also left the program this spring.

Two additional players left the program during the season, which was marked by a 17-game losing streak. Another player requested her release on Tuesday, when Wagner was dismissed.


``It's always a difficult decision when you make a change in the leadership of a program,'' Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis said in a statement thanking Wagner for her service and wishing her well.

Despite complaints about the program, Oregon State will pay Wagner $1.2 million remaining on her contract, which runs through 2013, De Carolis said.

The Oregonian newspaper reported last week that several players who had left the program since 2007 claimed they were mistreated by Wagner. Although they did not report any physical threats, players claimed they were told to play or practice hurt and subjected to verbal abuse, according to the newspaper.

An earlier story in the Corvallis Gazette-Times included allegations that the team was forced to practice as many as eight hours a day over Christmas break.

De Carolis launched an inquiry into complaints about the program in late April after the spate of departures.

``You can never make assumptions or jump to conclusions without further inspection. At the end of the year, all teams undergo a review and I want to assure you that we are in that process right now with regard to women's basketball,'' De Carolis said at the time. ``I do want to assure all fans, students, faculty, staff, boosters and friends, that I am aware of your concerns and I am examining the status of the program and the welfare of our students.''

Attempts to reach Wagner for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

De Carolis said Wagner was fired ``without cause'' to avoid legal issues. That meant that Oregon State would be on the hook for her remaining salary.

Wagner was named head coach of the Beavers in 2005 after stints as an assistant at Duke, Illinois and East Tennessee State.

Oregon State said the search for a successor will begin immediately.