UAPB’s Shelton resigns after three lackluster seasons

After two straight one-win seasons, Arkansas-Pine Bluff women’s basketball coach Cary Shelton just wanted to take some time off.

Instead of dealing with the fallout of two straight one-win seasons, recruiting and next year’s budget, Shelton decided to tender his resignation Wednesday after serving as the head coach for the last three seasons.

“It’s just something that I’ve been contemplating for a while,” he told the Commercial in a phone interview Wednesday. “I just wanted an opportunity to get away, step down and also create an opportunity for someone else to come in and lead those girls off to more wins and a more successful season.”

Shelton served as an assistant for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff men’s basketball team before being hired as the women’s coach. His record was 10-79, but most of the wins came during his first season when the team went 8-22. Since then, the team has combined to go 2-57.

“I don’t have any regrets, and I can’t tell them what went wrong,” Shelton said. “Just the bottom line is I didn’t get it done. We done a lot of good things, but it boils down to it, you have to win.”

Shelton and UAPB Athletic Director Lonza Hardy had conversations about the future of the program, but Hardy said he had not made a decision to let Shelton go before he resigned.

“It would’ve been a matter that I contemplated and whether I would’ve gone in another direction,” he said. “I hadn’t made up my mind. He was frustrated at the pace the program was going and decided to tender his resignation.”

At one point during the past season, the Lady Lions were on a 36-game losing streak that stretched back to the 2009-10 season. It became the longest current losing streak in NCAA Division I men’s or women’s basketball, and it was snapped when the Lady Lions beat Texas Southern 69-52 on Feb. 18. It was UAPB’s only win of the season.

Shelton said he took all of the losing personally.

“As a coach coming in leading the team, you want to be successful,” he said. “I am not going to make an excuse and it all points back to me.”

Shelton has been thinking of resigning for a while, though. The thought of taking some time off from coaching crept into his mind after UAPB lost to Texas Southern 57-36 on Jan. 21. It was only Texas Southern’s second SWAC win and the Tigers never trailed in the game.

“It’s been something I have been thinking of since Texas Southern and thought we should’ve won, and I’ve been toying with,” Shelton said. “I feel I left the program in a good position. This wasn’t an easy decision.”

Shelton did let his team know of his intentions before Wednesday, according to UAPB player Chi Chi Okwumabua.

“I wasn’t too surprised. He kind of talked to us as a team so we would know where his head is, and he let us know Friday,” she said. “We didn’t have very successful years with him, but he was very good to us, and we are sad to see him go.”

Shelton does not know what his next step is professionally, but he does know what he wants to spend the next couple of weeks doing.

“Right now I just want to relax and don’t even want to think about basketball,” he said. “I don’t want to worry about basketball and have the opportunity to do some things I haven’t had a chance to do and spend a lot of time with my family.”

Hardy knows what his next step is, though, and that is to gather applicants for the now open position.

“First thing is just to get the word out and get in some quality applications,” he said. “I think whoever we ultimately bring in, they will have to coach these young ladies up and they can win right away.”

Shelton’s salary was $60,000 a year, but Hardy said he has not thought about what the next coach will make. Shelton’s contract is not up until June 30, which is the end of the academic year.

“I plan on naming someone by that time, and we will have to see what the options will be,” Hardy said.

Hardy does plan on having one of the current players on the first search committee, and Okwumabua said the team would like to have some input on the next head coach.

“I think that would be a good thing,” she said. “We have been here for a while, so we would like to put an opinion in someone’s ear.”