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Moss says move chastises, embarrasses him

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Former UNCW men's basketball coach Benny Moss and his attorney J. Wesley Casteen released the following statements to the media Friday morning. The releases came after a press conference at UNCW in which Athletic Director Kelly Mehrtens announced Moss had been reassigned to other duties within the athletic department.

Moss's and Casteen's statements are below unedited:

In responding to the newspaper and television reports that he has been fired by UNCW, Benny Moss says:

Yesterday [Thursday, January 28, 2010], I met with UNCW Athletic Director, Kelly Mehrtens. The topic of that meeting obviously centered on the present direction of the men’s basketball team. We discussed possible reasons behind the lackluster record, and we also discussed my plans and expectations for improvement. Ms. Mehrtens indicated that she was considering relieving me of my duties as Head Coach and reassigning me within the Athletics Department. We were scheduled to meet again this morning [Friday, January 29, 2010]. At the meeting this morning, I was presented with a letter from the AD regarding reassignment; however, I have neither had an opportunity to fully review the contents of the letter nor evaluate the impact of the reassignment in light of my existing contract with University.

Despite Ms. Mehrtens apparent conclusion that the situation is hopeless, I tried to explain to her why I believe that the remainder of the season shows promise and offers opportunity for improvement. The remaining nine games of the season represent the weaker part of the schedule. Admittedly, the team has struggled against stronger opponents and suffered from an aggressive and challenging early season schedule. Nevertheless, the team is likely to enjoy several wins as it finishes out the season and enters the conference tournament.

The season has not been without its successes. The Seahawks enjoyed a win against Penn State, and the team defeated William and Marry when the Tribe was a top-ranked RPI team. The team has had other strong showings against Wake Forest and Miami. Several losses were by close margins, including the University of Richmond, and others were the result of winning shots by opponents in the closing seconds, including the University of Virginia.

While the AD has lost confidence in my abilities as a coach and the team’s ability to win, I remain confident that the existing staff and team would be capable of returning UNCW’s men’s basketball program to its winning tradition. We have seen improvement through the year, and the team has been excited about prospect of finishing the season strongly and playing well in the CAA conference tournament.

Regardless of the current record, the team, coaching staff, and I deserved the opportunity to finish out the season and demonstrate the true potential of the team. The almost unprecedented decision to relive me of my duties as Head Coach in mid-season does nothing to benefit the program. It serves only as a mechanism to chastise and embarrass me personally.

Coaches are graded almost exclusively by wins and losses. Lost in those statistics are the efforts and commitments of coaches to a program and its players. I would like to thank my coaching staff for their commitments to the program, and most importantly, I thank the players for their individual and collective efforts. It has been my privilege to serve the UNCW men’s basketball program as Head Coach.

Ultimately, it is the Head Coach that shoulders the blame for a challenged program. Our players undoubtedly posses the physical skills to win. My job as Head Coach is to instill confidence, increase maturity, and develop mental toughness within those young players. I am hopeful and confident that I have had a positive impact on the players. To the extent that I have been unsuccessful in securing wins for the University and its supporters, I accept responsibility. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly disagree with the actions taken by the University.

Moving forward, my primary concerns will be for my family. I am examining my options at UNCW and in coaching. I am confident that the program will weather this storm, as will I.

J. Wesley Casteen, Esq., CPA, attorney for Coach Moss, gives the following statement:

Coach Moss and I spoke last evening [Thursday, January 29, 2010] after the online report by the Star News and television reports of his firing. Coach Moss was entirely hopeful that the AD would reconsider her decision. That obviously did not happen.

The advance release of this information demonstrated an extreme disrespect for Coach Moss and the men’s basketball program. These actions and their timing represent an egregious insult to Coach Moss and an extreme disservice to the men’s basketball program. The early release of this information deprived Coach Moss of the opportunity to properly address the proposed actions with his staff and players. It was unfortunate that persons dedicated to the program initially heard the news as part of a television news broadcast or read it online.

The timing and implementation of the decision to remove Benny Moss as Head Coach could hardly be more disruptive for the staff and players. The decision announced immediately before Homecoming assures that is has the effect of compounding the insult to Coach Moss. In removing the Head Coach mid-season, the University has destroyed any opportunity for a fair evaluation of Coach Moss and the program.

Coach Moss’ employment contract with the University identifies as its Primary Purpose the “Education” of the student athletes. The men’s basketball program under Coach Moss has achieved recognition from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for it graduation rate. During Benny Moss’ tenure as Head Coach, every senior graduated and all five (5) current seniors are on track to graduation. This commendable accomplishment is one often overlooked in the pursuit of winning records.

As previously reported, Coach Moss has three (3) years left on his coaching contract with UNCW. We have not yet determined how the reassignment affects that contract. Coach Moss has worked to fulfill his commitments under the contract, and his expectations are that the University will fully fulfill its obligations under the same.

No further information is available at this time. Additional statements may follow later.

-J. Wesley Casteen, Esq., CPA

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