Bob Hamilton, who very nearly led Navy to an NCAA tournament berth this season, was fired yesterday as basketball coach by Athletic Director J.O. (Bo) Coppedge who also said the school has applied for membership in the Ivy League.
Hamilton had coached the Midshipmen to four straight winning seasons, but had never won more than 14 games in a single season. His team's records were 13-11, 14-11, 13-12 and 14-13.The last loss this year was in overtime to Old Dominion in the ECAC Southern final, 62-51, a game played for an NCAA berth.
"It was strictly a matter of wins and losses," Coppedge said, "We were one game over .500 in 1976 and we were one game over .500 this season."
Hamilton said he was called in by Coppedge yesterday morning and told his contract would not be renewed. "I was told that we did not win," he said. h"I did the best I could. My staff and myself worked as hard as we could and what we produced was not good enough for the Naval Academy.
"I know the rules of this profession. My employer told me that I didn't measure up."
Hamilton said his meeting with Coppedge was extremely brief. "It took me by surprise," he admitted. "I hadn't expected this."
Coppedge said the six-member athletic association board of control had voted Friday not to renew Hamilton's contract. He added a committee will be formed immediately to search for a coach and no one has yet been contacted about the job.
"It was a tough decision," he said.
"But anytime we make a decision to cut someone off from the Naval Academy it's a tough one. We just felt this was the best thing for our basketball program at this time."
Coppedge said the Ivy League application, which applies to the basketball team but not the football team, was "a move to try and get us into the NCAA tournament."
"We're an independent and you have to be pretty super as an independent to get into the NCAA's Coppedge said. "I don't see us doing that. I think the Ivy League would be ideal for us. We're already in the league with them in sports like tennis and baseball so why not add basketball? I think it would be an excellent move for ur basketball program."
Coppedge said the application was still in its early stages and he had not yet received any feedback from the Ivy League schools as to whether they would be interested in adding Navy as a ninth team.
Hamilton came to Navy in 1976 after six years as coach at Wittenberg, his alma mater. At Wittenberg, in Springfield, Ohio, he had a record of 119-38, four trips to the NCAA college division playoffs and a 24-5 record his final season.
Known for his intensity, Hamilton quickly upgraded the Navy program, pushing his players to work on defense. The 14-11 record in 1977-78 was the best for Navy in 19 years.