After a 20-win campaign that started with promise but ended without a postseason, Rob Jeter’s 11-year tenure as head coach of the UW-Milwaukee men’s basketball team has ended.
Athletic director Amanda Braun announced the firing on Thursday morning.
"Rob has always put the interests of our student-athletes first and has represented our program and the university with class over the last 11 years. I thank him and his staff for their contributions," Braun said in a statement. "After a thorough review, I have decided that a change in leadership of our men's basketball program is needed to help us achieve our goal of consistently being a top program in the Horizon League."
Jeter, who had one year left on his contract, had a 185-170 overall record over 11 seasons at Milwaukee. The 2011 Horizon League coach of the year, his teams won the regular-season championship twice (2006, 2011) and the conference tournament twice (2006, 2014), earning a pair of NCAA tournament appearances. The Panthers won at least 20 games, a benchmark of moderate success in Division I college basketball, five times in his tenure.
In framing the firing, the school’s statement noted that Milwaukee "finished third or higher in the Horizon League regular-season standings twice in the last ten seasons and have not accomplished the feat since 2011-12."
This past season, the Panthers went 9-4 during the nonconference portion of their schedule, including impressive road wins over Big Ten teams Wisconsin and Minnesota. But a 10-8 record in the Horizon League – good for only fifth place in the standings – followed by a second-round loss to Green Bay in the conference tournament, wasn’t enough for Jeter to keep his job.
Last year, Milwaukee was banned from participating in a postseason tournament because of poor academic performance. This season, despite returning almost all of its players and reporting significant improvement in the classroom, Braun decided the team’s on-court results were not good enough to warrant a tournament.
In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, she said, "In reality, we underperformed this year. We finished fifth in the conference. We also played the 292nd-weakest schedule in the nation. That's not a season I think merits a postseason."
After those comments, it seemed, the writing was on the wall for Jeter, who was an assistant coach at Wisconsin (2001-05) and Milwaukee (1999-2001) before taking over the Panthers.
According to the school’s statement, a national search will begin immediately for the next head coach.
"As we begin the process of searching for a new head coach, we will identify candidates who believe in our mission, possess high character and integrity and have a proven track record of continued success," Braun said.
On Thursday, just as some did after learning they wouldn’t be having a postseason, a couple of Milwaukee players used Twitter to express their displeasure with the decision to fire Jeter.
I'm glad Jeter stood up for us — La Flare (@Tiby_TheDream34) March 17, 2016
This is bogus. — Cody Wichmann (@cdwichmann33) March 17, 2016
Pissed is a damn understatement — Cody Wichmann (@cdwichmann33) March 17, 2016
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.