Ray Harper has resigned as Oklahoma City University’s basketball coach, after guiding the Stars to consecutive NAIA titles and three straight national championship games.
Sources said Harper, 46, will be hired as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, an NCAA Division I program that finished 29-7 and in the Sweet 16 this year. He also is one of two finalists for the head coaching job at Western Illinois, which has lost 104 of 144 games in the five seasons since former Oklahoma assistant Jim Kerwin left that school.
“Oklahoma City was a great place to work for three years,” said Harper, who was 95-17 at OCU and 2008 NAIA Coach of the Year. “You couldn’t ask for a better administration and better people to work with. It couldn’t have been better. There are great people at the university and Oklahoma City’s just a great place to live with a lot of things going on.”
But Kentucky is home. Harper is a Bremen, Ky., native and he came to OCU after coaching at Kentucky Wesleyan for nine seasons. Last Sunday, Western Kentucky hired Texas assistant Ken McDonald as its head coach after Darrin Horn left for South Carolina.
“I believe Ray could take you and me and three other guys and be very competitive,” OCU athletic director Jim Abbott said. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever seen.”
Harper very nearly won a national championship in all three of his seasons at OCU. The Stars lost the 2006 title game on a last-second 3-point basket. Harper’s overall head coaching record is 342-63 – and four national titles in nine national title games – in 12 years.