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OSU women’s basketball

Oklahoma State, women's basketball coach Jim Littell "mutually agree" to part ways after 11 seasons

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STILLWATER — In the final days of the women’s basketball regular season last week, Oklahoma State athletic director Chad Weiberg and coach Jim Littell opened discussions over the future of the Cowgirls’ program.

The outcome of those talks came in the form of an announcement from the school Monday afternoon that Littell and OSU have “mutually agreed” to part ways at the close of the 2021-22 season, marking the end of his 11-year tenure in charge of the program.

“The direction of those conversations led to this point today where we felt it was best for the program to make this change,” Weiberg said via Zoom Monday afternoon.

Weiberg confirmed that Littell will lead the Cowgirls through the completion of this week’s Big 12 Tournament. Ninth-seeded OSU is set to face eight-seed Texas Tech in the opening round of the conference tournament at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri.

Players and staff within the program were informed of the change during a meeting Monday afternoon.

“We do still have basketball left to be played in the Big 12 Tournament,” Weiberg said. “So the timing, from that regard, may not be the best. But I also believe that once a decision like that has been made, it’s best not to sit on it.”

An OSU spokesperson said Monday that Littell would not be made available to media prior to the Big 12 Tournament. The 66-year old coach could not be reached for comment.

Weiberg said the search for the eighth head coach in program history will begin immediately.

“My priority is to bring the best possible person, the best possible coach that we can get here into Stillwater to take over the reins of the Cowgirls program,’’ he said.

Littell exits as the second-winningest coach in program history, sporting a record of 203-139 dating back to 2011 ahead of Thursday’s matchup with the Red Raiders.

He arrived at OSU from Kansas’ Seward County Community College in 2005 and spent six seasons as the Cowgirls’ associate head coach under Kurt Budke. In Nov. 2011, Littell was elevated into the top job when Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna and two others were killed in a plane crash near Perryville, Arkansas just days into the 2011-12 season.

Littell led OSU to a 22-12 record in Year 1 and coached the Cowgirls to a Women’s NIT title that spring.

“I think what is most appreciated about him is how he shepherded the Cowgirl basketball program and really the whole OSU family through the tragedy of the plane crash,” Weiberg said.

The Cowgirls reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the next four seasons and totaled six March Madness appearances over Littell’s 11 seasons, including the program’s third-ever run to the Sweet 16 in 2014. Twice — in 2016 and 2021 — he was voted as the Big 12’s coach of the year.

But Littell’s departure comes with OSU having notched just one winning season over the last four years. The 2021-22 campaign including an eight-game conference losing streak from Jan. 12 to Feb. 12 and more losses — 19 — than in any other season of his 11-year tenure.

“We want the program to be sustainably good and be competitive, year in and year out and kind of have those expectations to compete for championships like so many of our programs do both on the men’s and women’s side,” Weiberg said.

OSU’s first-year athletic director declined to outline a candidate profile or a timeline for a hire as the program embarks on its first coaching search since Budke was appointed in 2005. According to the latest available public records, Littell was paid $565,000 annually.

“I think our coaches, including Coach Littell, have done a great job of establishing a winning culture here in the way that we are going to win here,” Weiberg said. “...so I want somebody that will be a good fit for that culture.”

As the search begins, OSU does not have any women in head coaching positions across its 14 athletic programs. The Cowgirls were last led by a woman under Julie Goodenough from 2002-05.

“I’m not in the business of trying to limit our pool,” Weiberg said Monday when asked how he’d weigh the imbalance in the upcoming hiring process. “I want to go out and find the best possible person to be around our players and our student athletes. It’s such an important position in that regard. So I just want to go find the best person that we can bring in here to Stillwater.”

The profile of OSU’s next women’s basketball coach and when that person will be hired remains unclear. Certain Monday is that Littell, for the first time since 2005, won’t be sitting on the bench at Gallagher-Iba Arena in 2022-23.

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OU beat Writer

I came to the Tulsa World as an intern in 2019, returned in Aug. 2021 and now cover the Sooners with Eric Bailey. I'm a New Yorker, a graduate of the University of Missouri and an avid soccer (read: fútbol) fan. Let's talk: eli.lederman@tulsaworld.com

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