On Friday, Texas Tech Director of Athletics, Kirby Hocutt, held a press conference regarding the termination of Lady Raider head coach Marlene Stollings and the progression of the women’s basketball program.
Hocutt began with an explanation as to why he went forward with the termination of Stollings.
“On Thursday, we terminated our contract with Marlene Stollings,” Hocutt said. “We terminated our contract with cause based on objectionable behavior”
The termination took place one day after USA Today released an article titled “toxic culture: 'Fear, anxiety and depression'” as described by Tech players in regard to Stollings’ coaching system.
Within the article, Today spoke with 10 players, two former assistant coaches and two parents about the Stollings’ program. They described an abusive culture inside the Tech women’s basketball program under Stollings.
Stollings served as head coach for the Red Raiders for two seasons beginning in 2018. Her focus was to turn the program around and to promote a winning culture.
After the first season, Hocutt explained that a small group of team members visited Dr. Judy Henry, the Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director at Tech.
“The players shared some things within the program that they were concerned about,” Said Hocutt. “Dr. Henry had a discussion with Marlene...and by all indications, things improved for a time being”
There were also additional comments from players after the first season via the end of season survey, according to Hocutt. He then explained that the situations the players were detailing were not in line with the program’s values. After sitting down with Stollings, Hocutt said that things improved within coach Stollings’ system.
However, as the second season of Stollings tenure began, the path that Hocutt and Dr. Judy saw as promising began to waver.
“I started going to the locker room after home games and dropping by practice and determined that it would be necessary at the end of the season to have an in-depth review of the program” Hocutt said. “I asked four individuals to be part of this process.”
The review was pushed by Hocutt to begin early April, and then was extended through June. Hocutt asked for a verbal report of the review, and said he found concerning things in the report.
One of the findings was a Title IX allegation regarding strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella. Players moved to state that Petrella was making sexual advances on them and also suggestive comments, per USA Today.
Hocutt explained that he was made aware of the complaint on March 25, and Petrella resigned two days later on March 27.
Hocutt then scheduled meetings with both the team and Stollings to discuss the review, which took place on August 5 and August 6. During the press conference on August 7, he explained his actions following the meetings.
“I took time to reflect on the situation and the totality of everything that I had learned up to that point. I then recommended to President Schovanec that we make a change in leadership”
Stollings in 2018 signed a six-year contract worth $4.5 million to begin her coaching career at Tech. However, Tech will not pay the remainder of her term.
“We will not be responsible for any more financial requirements to Marlene Stollings” Said Hocutt.
Stollings, however, was not the only member of the staff who was released from her position. During the conference, Hocutt explained that Malikah Willis, who joined the Lady Raider coaching staff as an assistant in 2019, will remain, but other assistants have been terminated.
Per reports from USA Today, Nikita Lowry Dawkins, another assistant to Stollings, was terminated as well.
Although complaints flurried about Stollings' system for years, the impact of them was not made aware of by Tech.
“While we were aware of the concerns that the young women brought forward after the first season, we were not aware of the magnitude of which they had occurred, or the magnitude of how it affected the women in our locker room” Said Hocutt.
However, Hocutt’s prioritization in the next head coaching position are more focused on the development of healthy relationships between the next coach and players.
“We’re going to look for someone who can come in here with high character and integrity that can build a foundation of genuine relationships and trust with these young women” Said Hocutt. “Someone that can help us heal the scars of what they have had to endure. Also, someone who is very successful within the game of basketball and coaching, that has a pedigree of success.”
With the events unfolding within the women’s basketball program, Hocutt has remained in contact with signees, parents and the current roster to ensure that their scholarships remain valid and that they are taken care of, according to Hocutt.
As for the Lady Raider basketball program, they are without a coach at the helm. However, Hocutt will use the remaining time to find a fitting coach before the season begins.
“The first step is finding the right leader. You find the right leader, with the right values, that will genuinely invest into young people, that will take the time to listen and build relationships with the young women in the locker room” Said Hocutt. “We will take as much time as necessary, but we will also move as expeditiously as possible”.
After unveiling more backstory to the events to begin the conference, Hocutt seemed determined and optimistic in finding positive additions to the Tech women’s basketball coaching staff moving forward.