Winthrop women’s basketball coach Kevin Cook has been suspended from his position due to a personnel matter, according to a release from the school’s athletic department Wednesday morning.
He answered a reporter’s phone call Wednesday afternoon but said his employer had instructed him to not have any contact with the media and that he “could not provide any comment at this time.”
“I look forward to visiting with you when this is all over,” Cook added.
Winthrop’s press release said that Cook’s suspension was “pursuant to the terms of his contract.”
“What we put in the release is all we can share at this time,” said Winthrop athletic director Ken Halpin. “As we find out more there will be more information. There’s no timeline or any more details to share at this time.”
The Herald obtained Cook’s coaching contract (Cook’s contract is here) from the university on Wednesday through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Suspensions are covered in Section 9 of the 12-page contract. It says that “The Director of Intercollegiate Athletics shall have administrative authority to immediately suspend COACH on a pre-hearing basis from performance of some or all duties with or without salary payments permanently or temporarily for a period of up to 2 (two) months for causes set forth in this Section 9.b without termination” of the contract.
Section 9.b of Cook’s contract includes a number of situations that could lead to a suspension or termination. They include a deliberate or serious violation of coaching duties, or refusal or unwillingness to perform duties, or any conduct that constitutes “moral turpitude, or which would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon university.” Two other stipulations in that section are a prolonged absence from duty without the university’s consent, or a deliberate or serious violation of any law, regulation, constitutional provision or bylaw of the school, Big South Conference or the NCAA.
There is also a portion of the contract that forbids the coach, Cook, from personally, or through an agent, seeking or negotiating part-time or full-time employment or any endorsement to accept additional revenue. And the contract also includes language that prohibits Cook from outside business or professional pursuits that would prevent full-time devotion to coaching Winthrop women’s basketball.
Neither Cook nor Halpin indicated in any way which part of Cook’s contract may have been violated.
Cook is paid $100,000 per year. He originally signed that contract in 2012 before extending the deal to 2018 two years ago.
A former WNBA assistant coach and head coach of the Nigeria national team, Cook is in his fifth year as the Eagles’ head coach. He led the program to the NCAA tournament in 2014 and is 68-77 during his time in charge of Winthrop women’s basketball, though the Eagles have won just six of their last 49 games since the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
Cook suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and had brain stimulation surgery in the summer of 2015 to help alleviate his symptoms.
The school press release said assistant coach Lynette Woodard will serve as acting head coach during this time.
Check back for more information.