Elizabeth City State University will be on the lookout for its next head basketball coach after deciding not to renew Shawn Walker’s contract. Learn more about the circumstances that may have affected the decision in the Daily Advance story by David Gough below.

Shawn Walker (right) coaches Shykeef Daniels (left) in an Elizabeth City State basketball game at North Carolina, last November in Chapel Hill. ECSU relieved Walker of his head coaching duties on May 12. (Credit: The Associated Press)

Next season’s Elizabeth City State men’s basketball team will be led by a new head coach.

Shawn Walker was let go by the university on Thursday, May 12, after three seasons.

The university released the following statement to The Daily Advance via email on Wednesday:

“On May 12, ECSU parted ways with former men’s basketball coach Shawn Walker. We wish Shawn the best in his future endeavors and appreciate his time with the Vikings.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Walker, whose contract was up, expressed disappointment with the decision.

He pointed to his team’s winning record last season despite a number of roster issues: Zaccheus Hobbs dealt with injuries; center Samuel Sowunmi traveled back to his home country of Nigeria for Christmas and has still been unable to return to the United States due to a visa problem; Justin Faison, a guard who scored 17.5 points per game, transferred last summer; and five walk-ons were in the lineup by season’s end.

“This could’ve been my best coaching job in figuring out how to play a team that has no size and the whole first semester and we had no point guard,” Walker said.

“You can’t outcoach acts of God,” he added.

Walker’s final game with ECSU came on Feb. 22 with a loss to Bowie State in the CIAA tournament.

The former ECSU basketball player and coach expressed disappointment with how the university chose to handle his termination.

When ECSU moved on from George Bright as athletic director, Walker said he received a phone call from an “extremely reliable source” who advised him that the university’s next move might be terminating him.

Acting on what the source told him, Walker said he had cleared his personal stuff out of his office by the beginning of April, understanding that he may not have a lot of time left as the men’s head coach.

He voiced frustration about having to wait until the middle of May to finally be told he would no longer have a job at ECSU.

“Nothing changed between February, the last game, and May 12,” Walker said. “Coaches get terminated in March. If you terminate me in March and just say ‘You know what, he’s not my guy,’ then why are we waiting months after the season?

“You could’ve let me go if you’re unhappy and I could’ve applied for other jobs. Whether I would’ve gotten them or not, I would have had a chance. Now I basically have no chance. The coaching carousel is almost done.”

Questions emailed by The Daily Advance to the university regarding details of Walker’s termination and when officials expect to have a new coach had not been answered as of Thursday afternoon.

Walker’s last three seasons with ECSU were in fact his second stint with the Vikings; he coached the women’s team in 2001-02 and the men’s team from 2002-14 before leaving to spend three seasons with NCAA Division I Grambling State.

In 16 combined seasons as the ECSU men’s head basketball coach, Walker compiled a 236-218 record and won the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in 2007.

During his return stint, his three teams combined for a 40-46 record with this past season’s team being the only one with a winning record. The 2021-22 Vikings went 14-13 and tied for sixth place in the CIAA.

The Vikings did not play in 2020-21 because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the season.

Though disappointed, Walker said he’s not mad at the university about his termination.

“Elizabeth City State has been good to me, has been good to my son — he grew up on that campus — and I am not mad with the university,” he said. “I’m going to support whoever the new coach is, going to support the university on a whole because the university itself didn’t make the decision. The people at the university did.”