Welsh fired at Providence after 10-year run

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Tim Welsh was fired as Providence 's basketball coach Saturday after his third losing season in four years.

He spent 10 years at the Big East school and had one year left on his contract.

"He represented the college with dignity and class," athletic director Bob Driscoll said. "However, I felt that it was in the best interest of the program and Providence College to make a change in leadership."

His team went 15-16 this season, with starting point guard Sharaud Curry limited to one game because of injury. The Friars lost to West Virginia 58-53 in the opening round of the Big East tournament Wednesday, dropping their record under Welsh in that event to 1-9.

Welsh led Providence to the NCAA tournament in 2001 and 2004, losing in the first round both times. He had a 160-143 record with the Friars.

Welsh leaves Providence with the third-highest win total behind Joe Mullaney (319) and Dave Gavitt (209). Driscoll plans to begin a coaching search immediately.

"Providence College has a rich tradition in men's basketball," he said. "I have very high standards for the program and I expect that we will find the best person to move the program forward."

Among the possibilities are George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, a Providence graduate who led the Patriots to the Final Four in 2006, and Brown coach Craig Robinson, a former Princeton player who led the Bears to a 19-9 record this season and second place in the Ivy League.

Driscoll did not mention names, but acknowledged that some candidates may be involved in the NCAA tournament.

"It would be premature for me to know until I get out there," he said. "A cultural fit is important for me. I want somebody who has great passion, who really believes in their heart that we can compete at the highest level."

Driscoll will choose a successor to Welsh without the help of a search committee, although school President the Rev. Brian Shanley must approve of the selection.

The 47-year-old Welsh arrived at Providence in 1998 after three seasons as the coach at Iona, where he compiled a 70-22 record with one NCAA and two NIT appearances.

His most successful season at Providence was 2003-04, when the Ryan Gomes-led Friars finished third in the Big East and were ranked as high as No. 12. That team finished 11-5 in the conference and 20-9 overall and entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed.