Harper Resigns at Oklahoma City, May Land at WKU

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -Ray Harper resigned Wednesday as the coach at NAIA Division I champion Oklahoma City University to pursue job opportunities at a major-college basketball program.

Oklahoma City athletic director Jim Abbott confirmed that Harper had resigned and said "he has more than one opportunity to go to another school.''

"What I know is he is resigning as our head coach to kind of further his career,'' Abbott said.

Harper, reached on his cell phone Wednesday night, said he was in Chicago and would visit with officials Thursday at Western Illinois, where he is one of two finalists for the coaching vacancy at the Summit League school.

Various media outlets have reported that former Bradley and Northern Illinois coach Jim Molinari is the other finalist. The man chosen would replace Derek Thomas, who resigned after going 40-104 in five seasons with the Leathernecks.

If Western Illinois doesn't work out, Harper said he would take an assistant's position under new Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald, whom Harper described as a friend. The Hilltoppers, who play in the Sun Belt Conference, reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament this season.

"I feel pretty comfortable with the situations,'' Harper said.

Harper is a native of Bremen, Ky., and spent nine seasons at his alma mater, Kentucky Wesleyan, before taking the Oklahoma City job before the 2005-06 season. He guided Kentucky Wesleyan to NCAA Division II titles in 1999 and 2001.

He went 95-17 with Oklahoma City, which reached the NAIA title game in each of his three seasons at the school. The Stars lost 67-65 on a buzzer-beater to Texas Wesleyan in 2006, but rebounded to beat Concordia (Calif.) 79-71 in 2007 and Mountain State (W.Va.) 75-72 this season.

Oklahoma City was the first team to make three straight NAIA championship games since Kentucky State in 1970-72.

Harper's overall career record is 337-62.

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