Coach Kevin Walden has been the head men’s basketball coach since 2012. This past Tuesday, Feb. 19, Walden announced his decision to resign. This was due to the fact that he believes the players can succeed but they need a refresher in the head of the program. After another devastating season, the decision to resign is one that was very necessary for the program.
This season, the 1-22 record was a wake-up call for the coaching staff. A good indicator of how this season went was on Dec. 8, when Grinnell College hung a 68 point blowout loss on the Fire.
During Walden’s first year, the 2012-13 season, the team went 1-22 overall and 1-17 in conference. This was acceptable only because he was new, and a change in the coaching staff can be hard for a team. Recruiting can become difficult, the team may not get along well with the coach, etc. However, the following year, 2013-14, the program saw a 1-22 overall with a 0-18 in conference.
This pattern of losing continued until 2017-18, when the team managed to win seven of their 25 games, including five out of 18 in conference. This combined with the overall .452 field goal percentage could have been a glimmer of hope for the athletic administration. However, there were still underlying issues with the team. That same year, the team averaged 18.1 turnovers per game.
Walden was committed to Knox as an institution. After his graduation from Knox in 2001 and a four-year career in collegiate basketball, he went on to assist head men’s basketball coach Tim Heimann for five seasons, until 2006 when he moved on to St. Ambrose University to coach men’s basketball for two years. Then, he moved to Warren Wilson College to head another men’s basketball program. He returned to Knox in 2012 and stayed until this past week.
New athletic director Daniella Irle out of Division I University of North Dakota seems to be more results-oriented than her predecessor, Chad Eisele, who often retained coaches whose teams had struggled throughout their time as the coach.
On Oct. 26, 2018, the women’s volleyball team had their last game. On Nov. 8, Irle sent out an email requiring a team meeting to announce that the head volleyball coach had been let go. This was after a 6-21 record on the 2018 season. Irle makes the changes she deems necessary to create a winning program and listens to her athletes and the athletic community surrounding Knox. Although this wasn’t Irle’s decision, you have to wonder what the thought process was on her end.
As of this year, Walden’s seventh season at Knox, the program is sitting at 20-145 overall during his tenure. That’s good for a win percentage of 12.1 percent overall and 2.8 wins per season on average. In conference, the Fire is 13-113 for a win percentage of 10.3 percent.
This is going to be a tough comeback. Rebuilding a program that has been struggling for so long is going to be a large task. However, with the right person leading the helm, it’s possible. That the athletic administration let this go on so long is a tough pill to swallow. Would they have done anything if he hadn’t resigned?
The national search for a new head men’s basketball coach has begun. The team will have a large hand in choosing their new coach and hiring will begin after interviews. Irle’s goal is to have a new coach hired by April 1, 2019.