Syracuse coach quits; assistant gets interim nod

Updated: June 7, 2006, 10:23 AM ET
Associated Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse women's basketball coach Keith Cieplicki, who was hired three years ago to build the women's program into a national powerhouse to rival the men's program, resigned Tuesday, the school announced.

Athletic Director Daryl Gross named current assistant coach Quentin Hillsman interim head coach for the 2006-07 season.

Cieplicki said he planned to stay in the Syracuse area to work with community outreach programs and charities.

"Coaching has changed over the years." Cieplicki said at a news conference. "Now seemed like a good time to move on to something I've always wanted to do. I see a lot of people in this city that we can help."

While Cieplicki's resignation was unexpected, it was not surprising. His short tenure at Syracuse was tumultuous, with five players, two assistant coaches and the director of basketball operations leaving the program amid allegations Cieplicki threatened scholarships, made racially insensitive remarks and acted disrespectfully to players and staff.

After finishing 13-16 and notching a win in the Big East tournament in the 2004-2005 season, Cieplicki began this year predicting a .500 record and berth in the NCAA Tournament.

However, Cieplicki's young team was hit by injuries, and finished 9-18 overall, and last in the high profile Big East with a 2-14 mark.

Cieplicki leaves Syracuse with an overall record of 28-55.

He was hired in 2003 to replace Marianna Freeman, who in 2000-2001 coached the Syracuse women to their only winning season since 1990.

Before arriving at Syracuse, Cieplicki coached six successful seasons at Vermont, where he compiled a 127-53 record that included four 20-plus-win seasons, three first-place America East Conference finishes and two conference coach-of-the-year awards. He left Vermont as the school's winningest women's basketball coach.

Hillsman joined the Syracuse staff in April 2005 from Alabama, where he spent a year as an assistant coach. At Syracuse, he has been involved in all facets of the program, including recruiting, player development, scouting and game preparation.

Gross credited Hillsman with helping bring in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation for next season, including junior college All-American Fantasia Goodwin, who led the nation's junior colleges in scoring the past two seasons and holds the junior college career scoring record.

Hillsman's only other Division I experiences were as an assistant at American University (2001-2002) and Siena (1991-2001).

In 2003-2004, Hillsman was the head coach at The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C., where he guided the women's team to a 26-1 record and the independent girls' prep school national championship. A year earlier, Hillsman led Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute to the same national title with a perfect 22-0 record.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press