McNeese fires Men’s Basketball Head Coach John Aiken

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 9:32 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2023 at 9:43 AM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - McNeese Athletics announced via a press release Wednesday that they have let go of men’s basketball head coach John Aiken.

“This is a really hard day for me personally,” said McNeese Athletic Director Heath Schroyer, “John is a dear friend and a damn good basketball coach. I know John extremely well and I have no doubt he will bounce back, and get another opportunity and be successful as a head coach in the future.”

Despite a disappointing regular season where the Cowboys tied the program record for losses with 22 to finish with a regular season record of 9-22, with a 6-12 conference record, the Cowboys did just enough to sneak into the Southland Conference Tournament, as they were eighth in the conference.

Against all odds, McNeese beat Texas A&M - Commerce in the first round 79-78 on Sunday, and then beat Nicholls 77-71 on Monday to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since 2012, and they were also the first eight-seed to make the semi-finals in the history of the Southland Conference Tournament. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, McNeese fell to Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 80-63 in the semi-finals, and with it, their season came to an end.

Following the loss, Aiken discussed his future at McNeese saying “I’ve not heard anything, I’ve heard rumors and rumors are rumors, I shared that with our guys before the tournament, I said guys, I don’t want you to be blindsided by anything, so rumors are rumors, and we’re going to enjoy every moment that we have together. I would love to continue to coach here, I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve had, it’s been two of the best years, two of the hardest years of my life, but two of the best years, I hope I got more days in me, but I understand what the measurement is here, I understand what they want, and so that’s way above my head, and not something I’m going to stress out about too much.”

Aiken had been on the McNeese coaching staff since 2018 serving as an assistant coach from 2018-2021, and as the head coach for the 2021-22, and 2022-23 seasons. In two years as the Cowboys’ head coach, Aiken finishes with an overall record of 22-45 and a conference record of 10-22. Additionally, Aiken finishes with an above .500 record in the Southland Conference Tournament, winning three of his five Southland Tournament games, including two wins in 2023 which led to McNeese’s first trip to the semi-finals since 2012.

Aiken had been with the Cowboys through a lot of rough times in Lake Charles including the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hurricane Laura as well which forced the Cowboys out of the Legacy Center, and into Burton Coliseum, and the Ralph O. Ward Rec Complex, where they played home games in 2020-21, and 2021-22. However, despite all the adversity the Cowboys faced during the 2021-22 season, and playing home games at three different locations, Aiken helped McNeese to a win over Northwestern State in the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament, before falling to third-ranked New Orleans in the second round.

Wednesday’s announcement comes after a very disappointing season for McNeese for a multitude of reasons. From injuries to losses in close games, McNeese had to deal with a lot over the course of their 2022-23 season. McNeese finished the season with just seven active scholarship players following injuries to key players such as Ty McMillan, Trae English, and Malachi Rhodes, which ultimately was the cause of many of their struggles in Aiken’s final season at the helm in Lake Charles.

Despite finishing with a 6-12 record in conference play, McNeese began Southland play with a 2-0 record for the first time since 2017-18, but after their 2-0 start, the Cowboys fell into a massive slump, losing their next nine games, which was the ultimate downfall of McNeese’s season, and John Aiken’s tenure as the head coach.

Aiken was the 11th head coach in McNeese Men’s Basketball history, and with the announcement on Wednesday that his time has come to an end, the Cowboys will now begin their search for their 12th head coach in program history, and their third in four years.

McNeese also added that a national search will begin immediately with Schroyer, Deputy AD Bridget Martin and Senior Associate AD for External Affairs Todd Butler serving as committee members.