After a record-setting losing season, CSU women’s head basketball coach Jen Warden will be replaced by first-year assistant coach Kristen Holt, the Athletics Department announced Wednesday evening.
The decision was made after Warden and Paul Kowalczyk, director of Athletics, had their final of a series of closed-door meetings Wednesday.
“I felt it was best to take the program in a different direction at this time,” Kowalczyk said. “We need to chart a new course that will benefit the overall health and long-term welfare of our program.”
The announcement comes after Kowalczyk confirmed to the Collegian in February that Warden’s job was no way in jeopardy, even with a 2-21 record at the time.
After five players decided to leave the CSU program from the 2006-2007 roster, an undisclosed number of current Rams — both upper and underclassmen — asked for their official release this week.
But Kowalczyk said requested releases this week had anything to do with his sudden decision.
“Players don’t have anything to do with a coaching decision, it’s not their place . that’s a non-issue,” he said.
Warden, who when hired was the program’s ninth head coach, signed a five-year, $115,000 contract (plus benefits) on June 17, 2005, that included individual bonuses if her teams were to win the Mountain West Conference regular season tournament, appear in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, and appear in the NCAA Tournament with separate increased bonuses if, while in the NCAA Tournament, they reached the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four.
None of those milestones were ever reached. In fact, during Warden’s tenure she accumulated an overall record of 21-69, 5-44 in MWC games. With two years remaining on her contract, the Athletics Department owes Warden $230,000. This amount is added to the $1.06 million owed to former football coach Sonny Lubick in addition to the amount owed to former men’s basketball coach Dale Layer.
However, Kowalczyk denied that the department is having any serious financial trouble.”It is not (going into debt),” Kowalczyk said Wednesday. “Even if it were, we’re trying to invest in our future here, and it takes money to make money . but we are fiscally OK at this point.”
Replacing Warden will be assistant coach Kristen Holt. Holt, who stressed how grateful she was that Warden brought her on staff in September as recruiting coordinator, is now in her second collegiate head coaching job, as she spent one interim season at Radford in 2002, receiving the Big South Coach of the Year Award.
“I’m really anxious about the position I’ve been given and the opportunity that’s ahead,” Holt said.
Holt retains assistant coaches Dick Lien and Randie Wirt on her staff and is in the process of finding one more coach to fill CSU’s coaching roster.
“I have some (coaching candidates) that I have considered in my mind … it’s something we’ll take care of in the next few weeks,” she said.
Holt said her primary focus right now is recruiting and getting her team back in the flow of school. Current players declined comment Wednesday.
Sports writer Matt Stephens can be reached at email@example.com.