Patrick Nero, who was hired as GW’s athletic director on Wednesday but has yet to take over the day-to-day responsibilities of the job, met with Hobbs on Monday afternoon and informed him he was being let go. Nero did not respond to requests for comment. Previously the commissioner of the America East Conference, Nero will replace Jack Kvancz, who is retiring June 30 after 17 years in Foggy Bottom.
In a telephone conversation Monday evening, Chernak stressed that although Nero had been on the job only a few days, this was not a rash decision on his part. Chernak called Hobbs’s departure a “university decision.”
Nero “is not a person who acts in a percipitant manner,” Chernak said. “Clearly we’ve been discussing it with him. We wanted to wait until we had an AD in place to lead the search” for the next men’s basketball coach.
Hobbs called a team meeting after he met with Nero and told the players he wouldn’t coach the team next season, according to sources who did not wish to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
“It has been an honor to serve as head coach of the George Washington University’s men’s basketball team,” Hobbs said in a statement released by the school. “I am proud of what we achieved here and am grateful to have had the chance to work with and guide the development and accomplishments of so many outstanding student-athletes. I thank the university, particularly President [Stephen] Trachtenberg and President [Steven] Knapp, for its support and wish the Colonials great success in the future.”
Hobbs, 49, had one year left on his contract after signing an extension in September 2007. His departure appears to have been a surprise to him. Earlier Monday afternoon, Hobbs said on Twitter: “Trying to get next years schedule finalized. Looks like summer came early in DC! It’s hot”
Hobbs coached 10 seasons at George Washington, compiling a 166-129 record. He guided the Colonials to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 2004 to 2006, the first GW coach to accomplish that feat.
But the Colonials have fallen on hard times since then. In the past four seasons, GW finished with a winning record in the Atlantic 10 Conference just once — this past season, when it went 10-6. In that time, the Colonials’ home attendance attendance steadily decreased, from an average of 3,403 fans in 2006-07 to 1,788 fans this past season. Even though the university recently completed a $43 million renovation to the nearly 36-year-old Smith Center, GW had the lowest average home attendance in the conference in 2010-11.
In 2005-06, Hobbs guided the Colonials to their second-highest ranking ever — sixth in the Associated Press top 25 — and a 27-3 record, the most wins in program history. After being upset by Temple in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, eighth-seeded George Washington defeated UNC Wilmington — rallying from an 18-point second-half deficit — in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to top-seeded Duke in the second round.
Despite that success, Hobbs was scrutinized for his recruitment of players with questionable academic backgrounds, the soft nonconference schedule his teams played, his boisterous sideline behavior, his strained rapport with GW fans and his contentious relationship with reporters.
Chernak did not address the job status of Hobbs’s assistants, including Roland Houston, who is the uncle of GW recruit Erik Copes of Philadephia. Copes is considered one of the top prep centers in the country. He has signed a letter-of-intent, and GW would have to release him from his commitment if Copes wishes to play for a different program next season. GW has no obligation to release him from his commitment, however.
“I don’t want to comment on that,” Chernak said, adding that university officials will follow up with GW’s recruits on Tuesday and “explain where we are in the process.”
Potential successors to Hobbs include Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, a former GW player; Vermont Coach Mike Lonergan, who was raised in the Washington area and previously was an assistant at Maryland and the head coach at Catholic University, where he won a Division III national title in 2001; American Coach Jeff Jones; and University of Washington assistant coach Raphael Chillious, a Silver Spring native.
Although he would not comment on who GW was considering as its next coach, Chernak said, “The list has grown enormously.”