Denton, TX (Denton Record-Chronicle) - North Texas fired women's basketball coach Shanice Stephens, ending her three-year tenure that saw the Mean Green's win total decrease in each of her seasons.
UNT finished 5-25 this year after falling to Western Kentucky in the opening game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament on March 5, tying the school record for losses in a season. Stephens finished with a 25-67 record with the Mean Green, which lost the last 11 games of her tenure.
The former Oklahoma State guard had two years left on her original five-year contract that includes a provision that will allow UNT to buy out the remainder of her deal for $206,250.
UNT will begin a search for a new coach immediately.
"This has been a difficult decision, but unfortunately the program has not shown the progress we expected at this point in the process," UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said. "We play in a very competitive conference and our women's basketball program has not made the necessary strides to close the gap between us and the elite teams in the league."
Stephens worked as an assistant at Rice and Clemson before coming to UNT, which she vowed to turn into a powerhouse in the Sun Belt Conference with an up-tempo style she termed "94 feet of heat."
She never came close to reaching that goal in a tenure that was marked by instability in both the team's roster and coaching staff.
Stephens never had the same group of assistant coaches in consecutive seasons. UNT also had several players leave the program during her tenure.
Amber Jackson, the program's all-time leader in rebounds and the fifth-leading scorer in school history, did not play the final four games of her senior season in Stephens' first year at UNT in 2008-09 after being suspended.
Stephens confirmed Tuesday that Ravven Brown and Jacquelyn Hearne, two players who were on the roster at the beginning of this season, will not return next year.
Stephens' first coaching staff included Erika Lang-Montgomery, who spent just one season with the program. Saudia Roundtree was on the staff for less than a year.
Larry McNeil was the only assistant coach on the staff this season who had been at UNT last year.
The instability in the program was a dramatic change.
Stephens took over from Tina Slinker, who spent 19 seasons at the school and was one of the longest tenured coaches in athletic department history.
The Mean Green appeared to have a solid base to build from heading into the Stephens era.
UNT went 14-18 in Slinker's final campaign, but returned several of its key players, including Jackson and Brittney James. Both players finished their careers ranked among the top 10 scorers in school history and Jackson was a key member of a UNT team that won the Sun Belt West Division title in 2005-06.
Instead of improving on its performance in its final season under Slinker, UNT continued to struggle under Stephens and finished 11-20 in her first season.
UNT finished with a 9-22 record in Stephens' second season, when the Mean Green suffered an embarrassing 119-51 loss at Middle Tennessee. The 68-point margin of defeat is the largest in school history, while the 119 points UNT allowed was the most in program history.
UNT reached another low point in the Stephens era at MTSU again this season when the Mean Green lost 83-63. Stephens ran off the floor after officials who had left the court and walked up the tunnel toward their locker room after the final buzzer.
The Sun Belt Conference suspended Stephens for one game for her actions.
UNT knocked off Florida International under McNeil for one of its five wins on the season when Stephens served her suspension.