Billy Wright out as men’s basketball head coach


Becca Langys

Billy Wright has officially been relieved of his duties as head coach of the men’s basketball team.

MACOMB, Ill. — Western Illinois University Athletics announced on Tuesday they are parting ways with men’s basketball head coach Billy Wright. Wright coached the Leathernecks for six years and went 53-115 (.315) during his tenure.

“We want to thank Billy for his commitment and service to our men’s basketball program and the University,” Athletic Director Danielle Surprenant told WIU Athletic Communications. “We appreciate his contributions over the last six seasons and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Wright came to Western in 2008 and was an assistant coach for two years before he got promoted to associate head coach in 2010. Wright left in 2013 to become an assistant coach with Ball State. Wright was only there for one year before becoming the 20th head coach on April 15, 2014.

After an 8-20 start in his first season as head coach, things turned around immediately in his second year, defeating the National Runner-ups the University of Wisconsin 69-67, earning his first road win as head coach. However, the momentum didn’t last long into the season and for the second straight year the Leathernecks finished in last place in The Summit League. Wright and the Leathernecks still finished last during 2016-17, however, he earned his best conference record at 5-11. In 2017-18, Wright earned his best record during his tenure at 12-16, but the Leathernecks still finished in The Summit League. In the 2018-19 season, Wright led the Leathernecks to one of the most historic wins in Summit League history, when they became the first No. 8 seed to defeat the No.1 seed in The Summit League tournament. The 79-76 win over South Dakota State was his one and only win in The Summit League tournament. Wright was unable to lead his program to The Summit League tournament in his last season, after losing 14 of their last 15 games to finish the season. The most recent 69-63 loss to Denver kept the Leathernecks out of competing in The Summit League tournament.

During Wright’s tenure, the Leathernecks finished last in The Summit League in five of his six years. In those six years, the Leathernecks went 20-74 (.214) in The Summit League. Wright went 10-70 (.125) on the road. In 2019, Wright had four of his five starters returning, including former 3-star Zion Young, Mr. Kansas Ben Pyle, junior Kobe Webster and senior CJ Duff. Even though this year’s roster brought experience, they finished their disappointing season at 5-21, and only three Division I wins.

Western Illinois University Athletics will start their search to find the 21st head coach in the history of the men’s basketball program.