After three seasons with no appearances in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, Eastern Kentucky has fired head coach Dan McHale.
“After reviewing our men’s basketball program, I determined a change in leadership is needed at this time,” EKU Director of Athletics Stephen Lochmueller said. “We want to thank Dan McHale for his service to Eastern Kentucky University, our community and the men’s basketball program. We wish Dan, Jackie and their family all the best in the future.”
Introduced as EKU’s 20th head coach in 2015, McHale compiled a 38-55 record, including a 16-34 mark in the OVC, and failed to qualify for the eight-team conference tournament in each of his three seasons.
The Colonels (11-20, 5-13) entered this season returning five of their top six scorers, including preseason All-OVC selections Nick Mayo and Asante Gist. EKU was picked to finish fourth in the OVC in a preseason survey of coaches and athletics officials.
But Gist transferred from the program over the winter break and injuries to key players stymied the Colonels’ ability to adapt to losing one of its top play makers.
After Gist’s departure, the Colonels lost 12 of their next 15 games and didn’t win a game at home for more than a month.
“The team has had immense injuries, but you’ve got to work through injuries,” Lochmueller said on Feb. 10 just before the Colonels beat Morehead to break a tie for last place in the OVC and end a six-game losing streak.
EKU won three of its last five games, but a 70-66 road loss to that same last-place Morehead team on Saturday eliminated EKU from being able to compete in the OVC Tournament.
“I look at this team and it’s a great group of young men,” Lochmueller said on Feb. 10. “Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ve lived up to their potential, and that comes back to us. We need to figure out why they haven’t lived up to their potential.”
McHale, a New Jersey native with a University of Kentucky degree, came to EKU after two seasons as Richard Pitino’s top assistant at Minnesota. Before that he was an assistant at Seton Hall under another Rick Pitino connection, Kevin Willard. McHale began his career in college basketball as a student manager at Kentucky from 1997 to 2001 and later became a staff assistant and director of video operations for Rick Pitino at Louisville.
McHale is one of three former UK student managers who has gone on to become a head coach along with Georgetown College’s Chris Briggs and the Orlando Magic’s Frank Vogel. They each worked for the late Bill Keightley, Kentucky’s longtime equipment manager.
McHale arrived at EKU with high expectations for an aggressive, up-tempo style with an emphasis on making three-point shots like his mentors. From 2003 to 2015, EKU made 13 consecutive trips to the OVC Tournament, winning it in 2005, 2007 and 2014 and making the NCAA Tournament those years.