Benny Moss is out as UNCW men's basketball coach. This morning the school announced Moss will be reassigned within the athletic department.
Moss was relieved of his coaching duties with nine games left on the schedule. The dismissal should not come as a shock. Moss has just one winning season in four years with the Seahawks, who sport a 7-14 record this season.
UNCW Athletics Director Kelly Mehrtens did not hire Moss, but she had a big hand in firing him. Technically, moss is being reassigned to another position in the athletic department.
"Men's basketball is the lifeblood of our department," Mehrtens said, "and it must be successful here at UNCW."
Surprised and disappointed don't begin to describe Moss's reaction. He wants to finish out the season.
"The decision to relieve me of my duties as head coach in mid-season does nothing to benefit the program," Moss said in a statement released by his attorney. "It serves only as a mechanism to chastise and embarrass me personally."
Assistant coach Brooks Lee will take over the team for the rest season. Some close to the program figured the interim head coach would be Henry Dickerson.
"There's a lot of guys hurting right now," Lee said. "It's an emotional time. It's not something we were prepared for."
"It's definitely a sad day," senior guard Darion Jeralds said. "It's going to be different without him. Right now I'm having a lot of different emotions, but I have to be a leader for our guys."
Moss has three years remaining on his contract. (See Moss's contract here) Under the terms of that contract, if he is terminated without cause, UNCW owes him the rest of his salary at $170,000 a year.
A national search for a new head coach will start soon. UNCW Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo says she supports Mehrtens's decision to make a change.
"It was a tough decision," DePaolo said. "It was a tough one to make for Kelly, because we all love Benny, but I know she did this because of our players, our students and all of the Seahawk family."
Much of the Seahawk family will be in town this weekend for Homecoming, making the timing of the dismissal almost as big as the move itself.
"A lot of alumni will be coming back to campus, and the day before the game the head coach gets fired," said Jim Dallke of the Cape Fear Sports Report. "If that doesn't say something right there, I don't know what does."