Chris Samuels, Deseret News
Southern Utah head coach Nick Robinson sheers his team on in an NCAA men's college basketball game against the Utah Utes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

CEDAR CITY — SUU fired head coach Nick Robinson on Wednesday and named assistant coach Todd Okeson as his interim replacement, one day after the Thunderbirds lost in the opening round of the Big Sky men's basketball tournament.

“I met with Nick earlier today and after discussing the direction of the program, I communicated the decision to move toward a change in leadership for our men’s basketball program," SUU athletic director Jason Butikofer said in a statement. “Nick has passionately served Southern Utah University and we are grateful for everything he has done for this program.”

Butikofer said a national coaching search for a replacement has already begun. The T-Birds last made the NCAA tournament in 2001.

SUU fell to North Dakota 85-80 Tuesday night to close out the season 5-24 and were 28-90 in four years under Robinson, who took over after Roger Reid retired in 2012. Robinson served as an assistant at LSU before landing the job with the T-Birds.

"I'd like to thank Southern Utah University for the opportunity to serve as head men's basketball coach the past four seasons," Robinson added. "The support from administration, campus, the community and the incredible student-athletes has been amazing."