WKU works hard to avoid distractions

Western Kentucky held a somewhat awkward news conference in March. Coach Ken McDonald was given a new contract after a disappointing 16-16 season and accepted a pay cut. He then apologized for "embarrassing and unfortunate issues" and acknowledged "personal and professional mistakes" during his three seasons.

The Hilltoppers haven't made the NCAA tournament since McDonald's first season, and with seven freshmen on the roster, the team appears to be going with a buttoned-down approach now that the reset button has been pushed.

For example, according to the College Heights Herald, McDonald is preventing his players from tweeting this season.

"It’s not a big deal. I think it can become a little bit of a distraction," McDonald said on Wednesday. "Our players did a pretty good job of it this summer, but I did want to tighten up and just focus on basketball."

An instance arose last season between Cliff Dixon and Sergio Kerusch in which the two argued on Twitter following a win against Bowling Green. Dixon, who saw limited playing time before eventually being dismissed from the team for behavioral issues, called out Kerusch for not giving enough effort.

Dixon was also active on Twitter following a loss to South Carolina, claiming he deserved more playing time.

The paper also reported that at Friday's Hilltopper Hysteria event, McDonald did away with the usual dunk and 3-point contests, citing those as individual events.

"I think we’re going to go out, give the guys a sense of how hard we're going to play, give everybody a chance at knowing the faces and the new names. It’s a lot to learn," McDonald said. "We’ll just kind of make it a nice team event."

McDonald then opened up practice to the media the following morning, with the intense workout seemingly representing a shift in the program's attitude.

McDonald spoke heavily to his team about being tough -- both physically and mentally. He was displeased with the players' efforts early on in practice and told them they were "setting themselves up to be a soft team."

The culture change seemed necessary after athletic director Ross Bjork gave McDonald another chance to turn the program around. The changes might seem to take some of the fun out of the game, but they also show McDonald is serious about doing things differently.

Does that translate into wins and a postseason appearance? It's unclear, but frustrated Hilltoppers fans can at least expect this team to have a different attitude.