Southeast Missouri State decides against renewing women's basketball coach John Ishee's contract

Wednesday, March 2, 2011
In this file photo, John Ishee huddles with his players during a timeout Thursday, January 29, 2009, at the Show Me Center. (Kit Doyle)

Southeast Missouri State University's women's basketball coach John Ishee was able to survive an injury-plagued 2009-2010 campaign that marked one of the worst seasons in program history.

A second straight injury-plagued, 21-loss season cost Ishee his job just three days after the Redhawks' final game.

The university announced Tuesday afternoon in a news release that Ishee's contract, which expires April 30, will not be renewed. He spent five seasons as Southeast's coach.

"I want to thank John for his service to Southeast Missouri State University and wish him well in any future endeavors," director of athletics John Shafer said in the release.

The release said Marcus Payne, who just completed his first season as a Southeast assistant, was named acting head coach and a national search for Ishee's replacement will begin immediately.

Shafer did not return a phone call seeking further comment. Ishee said he was told he would not be rehired during a meeting Tuesday morning with Shafer.

Southeast players were informed of the decision during an afternoon meeting. Sources said the players were instructed not to make any comments to the media.

Ishee, reached by telephone Tuesday evening, said he harbored no hard feelings and realizes what took place is a part of the profession.

"I've been honored to be a Division I head coach for five years. It's something I worked hard for in 25 years of coaching," said Ishee, a longtime assistant at various programs. "I really enjoyed all the kids I coached, the assistants I coached with, the community of Cape Girardeau."

Ishee was working on a one-year contract extension he received after his original four-year contract expired following last season, when the Redhawks went 7-21 overall and a last-place 4-14 in the Ohio Valley Conference. They failed to make the eight-team OVC tournament for the first time since the 1996-1997 campaign.

This year's Redhawks, without a senior, were riddled even more by injury and illness to many of their top players. The result was an 8-21 overall record and a ninth-place 4-14 OVC mark. Southeast matched the program record for losses in a season for the second straight year and again missed the OVC tournament.

"I think any time you're coming off seven wins and eight wins. ... it didn't surprise me," Ishee said of Tuesday's decision. "What I regret, looking at this past season, the numbers that stick out in my mind are all the games six different kids missed because of injury or illness."

Ishee's record with the Redhawks is 77-74, but it was 62-32 over his first three years. He is 15-42 the past two seasons.

Ishee originally was hired in 2006 as an assistant to former coach B.J. Smith, who was put on administrative leave two days before the 2006-2007 season amid reports of potential NCAA violations. Ishee was named acting head coach and led the Redhawks to the OVC regular-season title, the OVC tournament title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. He was named the OVC coach of the year and had the "acting" tag removed from his coaching title late in the season.

He also led Southeast to the OVC regular-season title and a WNIT berth in 2007-2008. He had a 47-17 record through those first two seasons.

Southeast dipped to 15-15 and a fifth-place OVC tie during Ishee's third season in 2008-2009 before the struggles of the past two years.

Ishee said he believes things would have turned out much different this year with a relatively healthy roster and believes the program's future is bright.

"I think the future is great. I think time will show that the recruiting here the last couple of years was probably better than people realize," he said.

As for his plans, Ishee said: "I definitely want to coach again. It's what I love to do, what I'm meant to do. I just don't know what the good Lord has in store for me.

"We'll see what comes my way."

mmishow@semissourian.com

388-3645

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