By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Dan Buzard’s contract as women’s basketball coach at Eastern New Mexico University will not be renewed, university officials announced on Tuesday.
ENMU Athletic Director Mike Maguire said the move is an attempt to kick-start the program.
“We looked at our program’s record over the past few seasons,” Maguire said, “and we think it’s time to go another direction.”
Maguire said Buzard’s contract is set to expire at the end of the school year.
Buzard compiled a 47-63 record in four years as ENMU head coach. He was also an assistant for 13 years at Eastern under former Zias coach Wayne Moore.
Buzard missed most of the 2004-05 season after having surgery for a cancerous brain tumor. Even though the surgery and chemotherapy have been successful, the tumor altered his eyesight and Buzard has said it may never return to 100 percent.
Maguire said the decision to let Buzard go was not about his health.
“As far as I know, he was fine to coach. It’s just time to go in a different direction,” Maguire said.
Buzard said he did not want to talk specifically about how he and ENMU parted ways.
“I’m going to go with whatever (university officials) said,” Buzard said. “I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Buzard said he wanted to be careful not to leave the university on a sour note.
“I am not going to say anything that reflects how I really feel,” he said. “I’m going to miss the players, the coaches and the chance to build a program. I’m just going to let it go with that.”
ENMU President Steven Gamble said he had no comment about the decision to let Buzard go.
“I will say he is a very fine person and had a good impact on the program,” Gamble said.
Moore, who was with ENMU for 22 years and still lives in Portales, said working with Buzard was easy.
“As an assistant he was loyal, hard-working, and just did a phenomenal job,” Moore said. “Especially in my last four or five years, he took a lot of pressure off me.”
In the 2005-06 campaign, the Zias finished 11-17, losing five players to season-ending injuries.
“I thought he did an especially good job this year,” Moore said.
Buzard’s best season was 2003-04, when the Zias finished 16-12 and Buzard was named Lone Star Conference South coach of the year.
The team fell to 13-14 after Buzard’s surgery.
In a press release, Maguire said the university will begin a nationwide search to fill the position.
“No timetable has been set for hiring a new coach,” Maguire said. “But we would like to have someone on board by the end of the spring semester.
“We appreciate Dan’s longtime service to Eastern. He worked hard and made many valuable contributions to the program. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Gamble said university officials will be looking for more than a good coach when they interview for Buzard’s successor.
“We want someone who will not only continue Eastern’s tradition of success on the court, but also in the classroom,” Gamble said.
Moore said coaching the Zias is a challenge because players from cities often do not like the idea of moving to a small town.
“It’s a good job, but it’s a tough job,” he said. “It’s a tough recruiting job, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to get city players because there isn’t much to do in the community.”