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Drake fires coach Mark Phelps after five seasons

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 11:27 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 11:28 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — Drake has not retained basketball coach Mark Phelps after five seasons.

Athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb announced the move Thursday, a week after the Bulldogs were knocked out of the Missouri Valley tournament.

Phelps was hired to replace Keno Davis, who led the Bulldogs to the Valley title in 2008. But Phelps couldn’t keep Drake near the top of the league standings.

Bulldogs star Rayvonte Rice transferred to Illinois before the season, and Drake stumbled to a 15-17 finish.

Phelps leaves Drake with a record of 77-86. The Bulldogs never posted 20 wins under Phelps and only twice finished above .500 overall.

Drake has always been one of the tougher jobs in the country, combining high academic standards with a spotty history in basketball. Phelps is just the latest in a long line of Drake coaches who failed to overcome those challenges.

Phelps, who spent 12 seasons as an assistant under Herb Sendek at N.C. State and Arizona State, was hired to replace Davis in the spring of 2008 after the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 37 years.

Davis, now the coach at Central Michigan, parlayed a spectacular one-year run that included The Associated Press Coach of the Year award into the job at Providence.

Many believed Davis’s heroics in squeezing 28 wins out of the Bulldogs would prove to be fleeting.

Those critics proved to be right.

Phelps’s teams finished 7-11 in the Valley four times, save for a 9-9 record in 2011-12 behind Rice.

Drake showed flashes of improvement this season, beating league champion Creighton at home and winning at Indiana State. But the Bulldogs were very inconsistent as well, losing by 30 on the road at Northern Iowa and against the Bluejays.

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