Mar 6, 2007

Men’s basketball program begins national search for Dunton’s successor

by Jared Pierce, Asst. Sports Editor
The search is on for Athletic Director Jeff Barber after Liberty University released Men’s Basketball Coach Randy Dunton on Wednesday.

Following a 14-17 season and an 8-7 record in the Big South Conference, Athletic Director Jeff Barber felt it was “time to take the program to another level.”

After serving as the head coach for the past five full seasons, Dunton finished with a 66-85 record and the 2003-04 Big South title under his belt.

The title season was his lone winning season at Liberty. Barber was not impressed. “In my opinion, it wasn’t enough,” he said.

Though Liberty lost a tough game to VMI in the first round of the Big South Tournament, it did not affect Barber’s decision to let Dunton go prior to his contract expiring.

He said he has been evaluating the program since October.

“It was probably two weeks ago that I came to peace that (releasing Dunton) was the right thing to do….One game doesn’t make a difference,” he said. “There’s always more to these kinds of decisions than just wins and losses. It was a combination of things.”

Dunton served in varying capacities at Liberty for 14 years.
“I’m obviously very disappointed,” said Dunton. “I knew they would evaluate where we were headed. I just didn’t expect this outcome. We went 7-2 in our last nine conference games and the team was full of positives.”

Barber, who officially became Athletic Director on Feb. 13, 2006, and Dunton could not get on the same page during Barber’s  tenure thus far as A.D.

“He and I, we didn’t see eye to eye (on the direction the program was going),” said Barber.
Dunton was given the opportunity to resign earlier in the day, but he declined. Consequently, after getting the approval of Dr. Jerry Falwell, Barber released Dunton.

“Why resign when you are going in a positive direction?” said Dunton. “I was brought here to do a job. All I know is that we are leaving the program in much better shape than we found it.”

Now, not only does Liberty face the challenge of finding a new head coach, but it must also attempt to retain a team filled with young talent for next season.

“The players were shocked,” said Dunton. “We had a great team attitude and they were buying into the staff. Everyone was plugged into the system.”

Junior Dwight Brewington, who has a wife and child, must choose between staying or potentially going to the NBA or Europe. 

“Right now, the way I look at things is my family comes first, but I do want to stay here,” he said.
Team captain Rell Porter, who has one year of eligibility left, is not questioning an early departure.
“I feel that with the group of guys we have, we have a bright future ahead of us,” said Porter.
Though his contract will be honored until Dec. 31 of this year, Dunton knows little more than that about his future.

“Right now, you have to take care of your family,” said Dunton.
Barber is resolved to make his first hire as A.D. a good one.

“This university deserves and will have the kind of basketball coach that offers us the opportunity to win this conference and go to the NCAA Tournament,” he said.

Even as early as Wednesday morning, Barber was making calls to Division-I coaches, though he could not name any potential candidates.

“We will perform a national search,” said Barber. “We will leave no stone unturned.”

Barber indicated the university should have a new coach within a few weeks.
“Of course, I will spend more time on my knees than on the phone,” joked Barber.

Contact Jared Pierce at jpierce2@liberty.edu.
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