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Syracuse coach quits; assistant gets interim nod

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse women's basketball coach Keith
Cieplicki, who was hired three years ago to build the women's
program into a national powerhouse to rival the men's program,
resigned Tuesday, the school announced.

Athletic Director Daryl Gross named current assistant coach
Quentin Hillsman interim head coach for the 2006-07 season.

Cieplicki said he planned to stay in the Syracuse area to work
with community outreach programs and charities.

"Coaching has changed over the years." Cieplicki said at a
news conference. "Now seemed like a good time to move on to
something I've always wanted to do. I see a lot of people in this
city that we can help."

While Cieplicki's resignation was unexpected, it was not
surprising. His short tenure at Syracuse was tumultuous, with five
players, two assistant coaches and the director of basketball
operations leaving the program amid allegations Cieplicki
threatened scholarships, made racially insensitive remarks and
acted disrespectfully to players and staff.

After finishing 13-16 and notching a win in the Big East
tournament in the 2004-2005 season, Cieplicki began this year
predicting a .500 record and berth in the NCAA Tournament.

However, Cieplicki's young team was hit by injuries, and
finished 9-18 overall, and last in the high profile Big East with a
2-14 mark.

Cieplicki leaves Syracuse with an overall record of 28-55.

He was hired in 2003 to replace Marianna Freeman, who in
2000-2001 coached the Syracuse women to their only winning season
since 1990.

Before arriving at Syracuse, Cieplicki coached six successful
seasons at Vermont, where he compiled a 127-53 record that included
four 20-plus-win seasons, three first-place America East Conference
finishes and two conference coach-of-the-year awards. He left
Vermont as the school's winningest women's basketball coach.

Hillsman joined the Syracuse staff in April 2005 from Alabama,
where he spent a year as an assistant coach. At Syracuse, he has
been involved in all facets of the program, including recruiting,
player development, scouting and game preparation.

Gross credited Hillsman with helping bring in one of the top
recruiting classes in the nation for next season, including junior
college All-American Fantasia Goodwin, who led the nation's junior
colleges in scoring the past two seasons and holds the junior
college career scoring record.

Hillsman's only other Division I experiences were as an
assistant at American University (2001-2002) and Siena (1991-2001).

In 2003-2004, Hillsman was the head coach at The Patterson
School in Lenoir, N.C., where he guided the women's team to a 26-1
record and the independent girls' prep school national
championship. A year earlier, Hillsman led Laurinburg (N.C.)
Institute to the same national title with a perfect 22-0 record.