WKU assistant Hank Plona named coach of Topper basketball
By Scott Swegan, WKU Sports Information

Posted on April 2, 2024 9:29 AM

Hank Plona has been named the 17th head men’s basketball coach at Western Kentucky University, Director of Athletics Todd Stewart announced on Tuesday.

In eight seasons as a head coach, Plona has won 86.5 percent of his games and led Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College to eight consecutive ICCAC regular-season titles, six postseason conference titles and the NJCAA National Tournament seven times.

“Hank Plona is a winner,” Stewart said. “He played an integral role in many areas of our program during this past championship season, and I am confident under his leadership we will continue to build on the strong momentum that has been established. His incredible winning percentage over his previous eight years as head coach at Indian Hills speaks for itself, and he has a proven history of strong recruiting and player development. His career path prior to joining WKU coupled with the vital role he played this past season has prepared him well for this opportunity. I am excited for the future of our basketball program under his direction.”

The job became open when Steve Lutz, who guided the Toppers to the Conference USA championship, accepted the head coaching position at Oklahoma State of the Big 12.

“The WKU basketball team’s momentum is strong, coming off its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013, and I am confident that Hank Plona is the right person to continue this trajectory,” WKU President Timothy C. Caboni said. “His passion, expertise and vision align perfectly with the ambitions of WKU. He brings to the table a familiarity with the program that will enable players and staff to continue striving for excellence. Our program is steeped in history, and I am delighted that Hank has accepted the offer to become WKU’s next head coach.”

“I’m incredibly honored to be chosen as the next head coach at Western Kentucky,” Plona said. “Thank you to Athletic Director Todd Stewart and President Tim Caboni for trusting me with this opportunity. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank Steve Lutz for the opportunity to come to WKU a year ago and wish him and his family well at Oklahoma State.

“My staff and I haven’t stopped working since the day we got back from Indianapolis and the NCAA Tournament and we are eager to build upon the success of the 2023-24 season into the future. We will continue working tirelessly on the recruiting trail – both in retaining current Hilltoppers and identifying future ones. 

“Our team will continue to be one that you can be proud to cheer for. We will play an exciting, fast-paced style of basketball, we will excel in the classroom and graduate our student-athletes, and we will be active on campus and in the community. Our players will represent WKU and this community with class in everything we do. Go Tops!”

A formal press conference to introduce Plona is set for 11 a.m. on Wednesday inside E.A. Diddle Arena. The event is open to the public, and free parking will be available in Parking Structure 2 (PS2) in between Diddle Arena and Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Last season as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, Plona was integral in the Hilltoppers returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first since 2013. The Tops led the country in adjusted tempo (75.2 possessions per game, per KenPom) and averaged 80.2 points per game, their most since the 1994-95 season (80.4 ppg) and best in Conference USA. Overall, WKU went 22-12 and won the Conference USA Tournament as the league’s No. 3 seed. 

One of Plona’s All-American stars from Indian Hills, Don McHenry, was named All-CUSA, first team All-District, and CUSA Tournament MVP. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native started all 34 games for the Hilltoppers in 2023-24, averaging a team-best 15.1 points per game. He also led the Hilltoppers with 81 assists, shooting 46.1% from the field, 36.2% from three and 85.9 percent from the free throw line. Plona also coached Enoch Kalambay at Indian Hills. Kalambay played in all 34 games for WKU this past season, starting eight, while averaging 6.2 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game in 18.3 minutes per game.

Depth was a hallmark of WKU’s success during the 2023-24 season, as the Hilltoppers were 17th nationally in bench scoring at 28.8 points per game. Eight players averaged at least 18 minutes per game and six Hilltoppers averaged over 8 ppg.

In his eight seasons as head coach at Indian Hills, Plona coached the Warriors to a 225-35 (.865) record. IHCC qualified for the NJCAA National Tournament in seven of those eight seasons. Plona led the team to eight consecutive ICCAC regular-season titles, six postseason conference titles and four district championships.

In his last season, Plona led Indian Hills to a semifinal run at the 2023 NJCAA National Tournament, the team’s best finish since 2014. They were ranked No. 1 in six different polls during Plona’s tenure and ranked in the national rankings all but one week, including 39 Top-10 rankings and 18 Top-five rankings over his last four seasons alone.

Plona coached 12 All-Americans in his time at IHCC, along with 42 All-Region performers. A total of 59 of his players moved on from IHCC to Division I schools, and nearly 20 of those former Warriors are currently playing professionally around the globe. One hundred twenty-three student-athletes garnered Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC) All-Academic honors for their work in the classroom. As a team, the Warriors were named an NJCAA Academic Team of the Year during the 2021-22 campaign.

Plona was named the ICCAC Coach of the Year on four separate occasions while earning five NJCAA District Coach of the Year honors. Under Plona's tutelage, six consecutive Indian Hills Men's Basketball players were named ICCAC DI Men's Basketball Players of the Year. Along with the success of moving players on to the next level, Plona has seen an abundance of former assistant coaches earn spots at high-level programs throughout the country.

Notably, Tomas Woldetensae landed with 2019 National Champion Virginia, while the following season, Tyon Grant-Foster was sought out by Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks. Recent seasons also saw three former IHCC players join Power Five schools in Maurice Calloo (Oregon State), Chris Payton (Pittsburgh) and J’Vonne Hadley (Colorado).
Prior to his first head coaching job, Plona was an assistant coach at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas for four seasons. The team made three national tournament appearances in Plona’s four seasons there, winning the national title in 2012 with an undefeated record. His team also made it to the championship game in 2015, just prior to Plona being named head coach at Indian Hills.

Plona spent one season as an assistant coach at IHCC (2010-11) and one as an assistant coach at Arkansas Fort-Smith (2009-10).

The Avon, Connecticut, native was a student manager and graduate assistant at Providence College under Tim Welsh and Keno Davis.
Avon, Conn.
College: Providence ’07

Providence (graduate assistant)
2009-10: Arkansas Fort-Smith (assistant coach)
2010-11: Indian Hills CC (assistant coach)
2011-2015: South Plains College (assistant coach)
2015-2023: Indian Hills CC (head coach)
2023-24: WKU (assistant coach)

2024-PR: WKU (head coach)



“Hank is a very bright young coach with head coaching experience  that will continue the success at a very tradition-rich program. Hilltopper supporters should be so proud of this past year’s team success and looking forward to Coach Plona building and adding to it. I’m happy for Hank and excited for this well-deserved opportunity.” – Bill Self, Kansas head coach

“WKU has made a great hire in Hank Plona. He has won wherever he has coached and knows what it takes to build a successful program. The young men I’ve recruited from Hank’s program at Indian Hills viewed Hank as a true mentor and role model in their lives.  They knew he would coach them hard and get the best out of them and the team and that he genuinely cared for them as young men. It’s a great day when people who do it right are rewarded with a wonderful opportunity to lead a storied program such as WKU.” – Tony Bennett, Virginia head coach

“Congratulations to Hank Plona on being named the next head coach at WKU! Hank is the right choice to build upon the foundation that was established last season. He was a big part of our success in 2023-24 and a coach that I leaned on to help lead all aspects of the program throughout the year. He is a proven winner and developer of talent who does things the right way, and I’m confident he will continue to do those things at a high level as the head coach at WKU. I am going to miss working with Hank, but am excited for his future at WKU. Congratulations to Todd Stewart, Tim Caboni and WKU on a great hire!” – Steve Lutz, former WKU head coach and current Oklahoma State head coach

“I am so excited for Hank and for WKU. Hank is a rising star in our industry, has been a winner everywhere he’s ever been, and I have no doubt he will continue to lead the Hilltoppers to greater success in the future.“ – TJ Otzelberger, Iowa State head coach

“In Hank Plona, WKU is getting a winner on many levels. While his .865 winning percentage over eight years against the toughest schedule annually at our level speaks for itself, his student-athletes’ 100 percent graduation and transfer rate, numerous hours of community service, and time spent representing Warrior Athletics and Indian Hills Community College in our communities are the things that will always stand out to me. Hank is one of the hardest working professionals I’ve had the pleasure of working around, is an excellent talent evaluator, and has a tremendous knack for creating relationships with everyone he encounters, whether that be prospective student-athletes and their families, university faculty and staff, or athletic boosters and fans. Hilltopper Nation will be thrilled with the type of basketball Hank’s teams will bring to Bowling Green and the young men who will represent the university on the court and in the community. I believe this to be another home run hire for Todd Stewart and Western Kentucky Athletics.” – Dr. Brett Monaghan, Vice President & Director of Athletics, Indian Hills Community College



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