Preston’s leave, due to medical and personal reasons, according to a release from the university’s athletic department, was termed temporary. It came less than 24 hours after the Owls lost at Jacksonville and fell to 3-12 on the season.
Associate head coach Jimmy Lallathin, in his third season as an assistant to Preston, will serve as the Owls’ interim coach for however long Preston is away from the team.
Kennesaw State athletic director Vaughn Williams wouldn’t go into details of Preston’s absence, only saying in the university release that he is confident in Lallathin “taking the reins and moving forward at this time.”
Preston was not made available for comment.
Preston came to Kennesaw State before the 2011-12 season, after the program had fallen into academic disarray and been sanctioned by the NCAA, and previous coach Tony Ingle had been fired.
A former standout player at Virginia Military, Preston spent 13 years as an assistant, with stops at programs such as Notre Dame, Florida — where he tutored future NBA stars Al Horford and Joakim Noah — and Penn State. Ten times, he was on staffs that led their teams into either the NCAA tournament or NIT.
Preston, however, has been unable to duplicate that success, even as he’s begun to build the Kennesaw State program in his own image.
The Owls went 3-28 in Preston’s first season, ending the season on a 19-game losing streak and failing to win a game in Atlantic Sun Conference play. They improved only fractionally last season, to 3-27, with a 2-16 record in the A-Sun.
Preston’s leave of absence comes with Kennesaw State on a seven-game losing streak, which includes losses to power-conference programs Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Indiana. Two of the Owls’ three wins this season — Warren Wilson and Truett-McConnell — have come against lower-division opponents.
Lallathin’s first game as the Owls’ interim coach will come Saturday, as East Tennessee State visits the KSU Convocation Center — Kennesaw State’s first home game since Nov. 26. It will be the first head-coaching experience for Lallathin, who spent four seasons at Miami (Ohio) before joining Preston’s staff.