May 18 (Bloomberg) -- Southern Methodist University fired Athletic Director Steve Orsini as the Dallas-based school prepares to switch to the Big East conference.
Tim Leonard, the senior associate director of athletics, was named interim director of athletics while a national search is undertaken for a permanent replacement to Orsini.
“After several discussions over the last few weeks, it became apparent to me that it was necessary to make this change,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said in an e-mailed statement last night. “A unified effort is required for future progress in our athletics programs.”
SMU announced in December that it will leave Conference USA to begin play in the Big East in all sports from the 2013-14 academic year.
SMU’s football team finished third in the West division last season with an 8-5 record and 5-3 mark in conference play. The Mustangs ended the campaign with a 28-6 victory over the University of Pittsburgh in the Compass Bowl.
In men’s basketball, SMU was 11th of 12 teams in Conference USA with a 13-19 record.
Orsini’s departure comes a month after Larry Brown, the only coach to win college and National Basketball Association championships, took over the basketball program.
NBA Top Coach
SMU is the 14th head coaching job for the 71-year-old Brown, who most recently led the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats before resigning 28 games into the 2010-11 season.
Brown was the league’s Coach of the Year in 2001 when he directed the Philadelphia 76ers and led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship in 2004, 16 years after guiding the University of Kansas to the National Collegiate Athletic Association title.
The Big East sent nine schools to the NCAA tournament this season, one year after breaking its own record with 11 spots in the field.
The reigning U.S. Amateur golf champion, Kelly Kraft, completed his senior year at SMU in 2011. Kraft a month ago missed the halfway cut at the Texas Open in his first start on the U.S. PGA Tour as a professional.
Kraft is the third golfer in 14 years from the Dallas school to win the top amateur title, joining Hank Kuehne (1998) and Colt Knost (2007).
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