Winthrop fires Randy Peele

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Winthrop has dismissed men's basketball coach Randy Peele after five seasons.

Athletic director Tom Hickman announced the move Monday, saying it was "distressing" that the team had underachieved in posting back-to-back losing seasons the last two years.

Peele succeeded current Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall after the 2007 season and won the Big South Conference tournament championship in 2008 and 2010. However, the Eagles had back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1997 and 1998. Winthrop fell to VMI in the Big South tournament last Thursday to finish 12-20.

Peele spent four years on Marshall's staff and was part of a small-school powerhouse that had a run of seven conference tournament titles in nine seasons from 1999 through 2007. Peele kept that going in 2008 when the Eagles again won the Big South Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament.

After a losing season in 2009, Winthrop again recovered to win the Big South and play in the NCAAs.

But the Eagles posted losing seasons the past two years, going a combined 25-39.

"Sometimes there is a need to provide a spark for a program and that usually comes in the form of a change in leadership. That is why, at this time, the university has decided to release Coach Peele from his duties," Hickman said.

Peele did not return several phone calls and text messages left by The Associated Press.

Peele finished 77-82 in five years as Winthrop's coach. The Eagles went 48-38 in Big South games during that time, but finished fifth in the league in 2011 and sixth this past season.

Hickman said the school will begin an immediate search for Peele's successor.