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Wichita State fires men's basketball coach Isaac Brown


After winning a conference championship during his first season, Brown's teams were 32-28 over the last two seasons.

Wichita State University has fired head men’s basketball coach Isaac Brown.

The move Saturday came less than 24 hours after WSU lost to Tulane in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament in Fort Worth.

After leading the Shockers to a conference title and the NCAA Tournament in his first year, Brown’s teams were a combined 32-28 over the next two seasons. He was the first Black coach to lead the basketball program.

“Coach Brown is a man of character and integrity, and we appreciate everything he’s done for our men’s basketball program, especially during a significant period of transition,” athletic director Kevin Saal said in a statement.

Brown, 53, has been at WSU since 2014. He spent the first six seasons as an assistant coach under Gregg Marshall.

Marshall resigned just days before the start of the 2020-21 season following reports that alleged he was physically and verbally abusive toward players and staff. Marshall admitted his coaching style was tough, but denied being abusive or demeaning.

Brown was named interim head coach by athletic director Darron Boatright eight days before the season began. It was Brown’s first head coaching job.

The Shockers responded with a magical season, going 16-6, winning their first American Conference championship and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Brown was named the league’s coach of the year, had the interim tag removed from his job title and was given a five-year contract.

But the magic didn’t last. In addition to struggles on the court, attendance at Koch Arena continued to fall.

WSU averaged just more than 7,100 fans in 16 home games this season. Before the pandemic and when Marshall was fielding elite teams – with the help of Brown – the Shockers averaged more than 10,000 fans a game.

“Wichita State Men’s Basketball maintains a rich tradition of excellence and is a source of great pride for the university, for the City of Wichita, for our state and for our region,” Saal said in his statement. “We must recapture the competitiveness, pride and unified support upon which this proud program has been built for decades.”

Boatright, who promoted Brown to head coach, was fired last spring. He was replaced by Saal, whose career includes more than a decade at the University of Kentucky, a basketball powerhouse.

Saal said WSU will “conduct a comprehensive national search for our next head coach.” He said there is no timeline for the process.

“Shocker Nation, your renewed and unwavering support is essential to restoring our program to national prominence,” Saal said in his statement. “Please join us on this critically important and transformative new journey; a journey that will require enhanced investment to expand and align resources to expectations.”

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.
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