Women’s basketball faces preseason firing

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A preseason shake-up for the Dixie State University women’s basketball team might make its season opener on Nov. 19 a bit more interesting: the firing of head coach Catherria Turner.

DSU Athletic Director Jason Boothe said the decision to fire Turner and replace her with interim head coach Jenny Thigpin, an assistant on the team since 2013, was made Friday. When Turner’s year at the helm, mired by allegations of discrimination from former players, ended, it marked the second coaching change in three seasons for the team, with the release of former head coach Angela Kristensen taking place before the 2012-13 season’s end.

Athletic department policy prohibits disclosing the causes for firing coaches, but the switch — made less than two weeks before the season — prevents the department from “jeopardizing the basketball program’s future in a very serious way,” Boothe said.

He said the situation puts a strain on the player’s experiences, especially those who also played for DSU during Kristensen’s removal in spring 2013, but various factors made the decision imminent.       

“A couple of the players have [experienced coaching changes] twice, which I absolutely feel horrible about, but if we didn’t do anything, it could have been worse,” Boothe said. “… We understand the timing is not great, but we didn’t have a choice.“

The athletic department’s decision Friday shocked team members, said Kaylah Miller, a senior communication major from San Diego. 

Miller said Community Engagement Coordinator Derek Dawes informed players of a mandatory meeting as the decision was finalized. Having played for four coaches since enrolling at DSU — Kristensen, Dawes when he filled in as interim head coach after Kristensen’s ouster, Turner and now Thigpin — she said she had a slight suspicion about the meeting’s purpose.

“Once I got that call, I kind of knew because I had already been through this process before of [Dawes] calling me and saying what happened,” Miller said. “It just [is rough]; this is my fourth coach that I’ve had in college at the same school.”

She said up to Friday’s point, the team hit its stride in practices and overcame a difficult preseason.  However, this transition so close to the season has large implications on the Storm’s progression, Miller said.

“Not to be rude, but it’s going to be a different change,” she said. “Coach Turner was a point guard, and Thigpin was a post player, so it’s different dynamics … It’s different coaching styles, but it definitely is going to be a lot different with Turner not around.”

At this juncture, Boothe said only athletic department officials know the reason for Turner’s termination.

Thigpin declined to comment on Turner’s release but said both women’s basketball players and fans can expect the same intensity and strategy on the court as in prior seasons.  

“As a team, we are just going to go forward with what was already started,” Thigpin said. “We aren’t going to change anything up. We are going to continue on the same heartbeat we have already been walking to.”

Despite Thigpin’s status as interim head coach, Boothe said success this season could make Thigpin the head coach moving forward.   

“I would want nothing more than have her come in to be successful and be the coach next year,” he said. “We are not anticipating going on another search. We want her to come in and take it and run with it.”

Turner could not be reached for comment.

The DSU women’s basketball team starts its season against University of Alaska Fairbanks Nov. 19 in Burns Arena.

Payton Davis and Keshara Bjorkman completed additional reporting for this article.