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Sunday, March 4, 2007
Indiana State coach Waltman says he's fired

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Indiana State's sixth straight losing season cost coach Royce Waltman his job even before the Sycamores played in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Waltman, whose contract ends after this season, confirmed after a 59-38 loss to Creighton in the quarterfinals on Friday night that he had been fired, saying it has been common knowledge around the Terre Haute, Ind., campus for about a week.

"Don't take this as a bitter comment, because I'm not one bit bitter, but the administration handled this with the deft touch of a 20-mule team," Waltman said. "They said it at a board of trustees' meeting, which is obviously going to leak out, but yet said they didn't want to announce it until after the tournament.

"So it just left us with every man, woman and child in Terre Haute knowing I'm fired, but it's not official. It still hasn't been made official by whoever's going to make that statement."

The conference was attempting to reach school officials for comment.

Waltman was 134-164 in 10 seasons at the school and is the only coach in the post-Larry Bird era to take the Sycamores to the NCAA Tournament. He discussed the situation with players before the tournament. Indiana State (13-18), the 10th and bottom seed, beat Illinois State in its tournament opener Thursday night to win for only the second time in 15 games.

"Coming into the tournament, coach talked to us and we left that back in Terre Haute," guard Gabe Moore said. "We weren't going to worry what was going to happen to coach after the season.

"If he was going to leave, we were going to try and send him out on a good note. We just couldn't do it."

Indiana State shot only 23 percent and had a season low for points in its finale. Waltman blamed the opposition, and not his lame-duck status.

"I've been around long enough that it isn't necessarily going to break their hearts even if I am fired," Waltman said. "But it just got to be such common knowledge that I had to talk to them about it.

"We came down here in really good spirits, played well last night, just couldn't solve the riddle of Creighton."

Waltman is 323-250 in 20 seasons, leading Indiana State to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2000 and 2001. He was an assistant under Bobby Knight at Indiana when the Hoosiers won the NCAA title in 1987.

He was realistic about his odds of getting another Division I coaching job.

"Well, I can't get a head coaching job, because if you get fired for cheating you can get hired right back again," Waltman said. "But if you get fired for losing you're like you've got leprosy.

"Young coaches need to keep that in mind. Cheating and not graduating players will not get you into trouble, but boy losing will."

Waltman also pointed out the school's struggles before he was hired. The 1999-2000 team was 22-10, winning the school's first outright Missouri Valley regular-season title and NCAA bid in 21 years.

When he was hired, Waltman said his victory total this season would have been "cause for a ticker tape parade down through town."

"I'm very proud what we did so quickly," he said. "We were in a position to really build upon that but we didn't.

"There's nobody to blame for that but myself, and I'm embarrassed by that."