In a move that didn't come as a surprise, Towson State athletic director Wayne Edwards announced yesterday the school was not renewing basketball coach Terry Truax's contract and was beginning a search for a new coach.
The decision to replace Truax after 14 years comes three weeks after Edwards said, when asked if speculation over Truax's status would be ended by a strong showing in the America East tournament, "One game or a few games won't make a season and one season won't make a career."
Truax said at the same time he had heard a "rumor" in January that he would not be asked back for the 1997-98 season.
But still it took Truax, 53, a few hours last night to recover from the news that was delivered to him by Edwards in a brief meeting Wednesday morning.
After spending a few hours in privacy with his wife, Pam, last night, Truax said, "He [Edwards] told me he was going to get right to it. He said they weren't renewing my contract. He said they needed to make a change and were going in another direction."
Truax said his response to Edwards was, "That's your prerogative."
After rethinking the last several weeks leading up to his firing, Truax said last night he may have made it easier for Edwards by making some flippant remarks three weeks ago in regard to his future at the school.
Truax said at the time, "If I were making $400,000 a year, there would be reason to be nervous. There are jobs in basketball coaching that I call heroic jobs, and this is one of them."
Truax's salary ranges between $65,000 and $70,000 a year, including his summer camp.
HTC Edward, who has been athletic director at Towson for two years, said in a prepared statement yesterday, "We recognize the many contributions Coach Truax has made during his career as head coach. However, after an extensive evaluation, it was determined that the program needs re-direction and a leadership change is necessary."
Truax had a 202-203 record in 14 seasons, made two trips to the NCAA tournament, where the Tigers pulled off near-upsets ofOklahoma and Ohio State in 1990 and 1991, guided the team to an upset over St. John's in the preseason NIT in 1993, directed anupset of West Virginia in the 1994-95 season and shocked Louisville at the Towson Center in January 1995.
Truax said, "If you added up everything we do in this program under the circumstances we have to work with, I'm sure we'd get high marks."
The speculation on a successor centers around long-time assistant Jim Meil, who was with Truax all 14 years and was an assistant to former coach Vince Angotti for one season.
Meil said he was applying for the job and "would see how things develop."
Other early candidates were Coppin State assistant Derek Brown and former Maryland assistant Art Perry.
Perry interviewed for the American University job yesterday and is looking for a head coaching position.
Last night, Truax was philosophical about not returning next season at Towson.
"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," he said. "I have experienced both sides of that now. Coaches like Dean Smith, Roy Williams and Bobby Knight will never experience the second part."