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GW names Maurice Joseph full-time men’s basketball coach

Maurice Joseph signed a five-year deal to become full-time head coach of the George Washington men’s basketball team, the school announced on Monday.

Joseph had served as interim coach this season, directing the Colonials to a 20-15 record following the dismissal of former coach Mike Lonergan in September. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I am honored and grateful for the faith that [Athletic Director] Patrick Nero and the university has placed in me to continue to lead this program onward,” Joseph said in a statement. “There is a proud tradition at GW driven by decades of successful student-athletes both on and off the court, and it is a privilege to be tasked with the responsibility of mentoring our team moving forward.”

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The Colonials, with eight newcomers, participated in the College Basketball Invitational this season for GW’s second consecutive postseason appearance. The Colonials won the National Invitation Tournament two seasons ago with Joseph as an assistant on Lonergan’s staff.

Joseph, 31, is the youngest head coach in a conference ranked among the top 10 in the country based on metrics from the Ratings Percentage Index. The Colonials went 10-8 in the Atlantic 10, finishing in sixth place. GW was picked eighth in the league in preseason voting.

Among the most significant wins for the Colonials under Joseph was beating Dayton, 87-81, in the regular season finale. Dayton was the regular season championship in the Atlantic 10.

GW finished first in the league in three-point shooting percentage this season while using three freshmen who combined for 50 starts.

“Maurice has demonstrated that he is the right individual to lead our men’s basketball program,” Nero said in a statement. “Our student-athletes respond well to his energy, passion and vision. I want to congratulate Maurice on this hard-earned opportunity. We’re confident that he will continue to recruit and retain the next generation of men’s basketball student-athletes and help their talents shine.”

Joseph played for Michigan State for two seasons under Tom Izzo prior to transferring to Vermont, where he became a starter for Lonergan, then the Catamounts’ head coach. In his final season at Vermont in 2009-10, Joseph was the team’s second leading scorer, helping the Catamounts earn an NCAA tournament berth.

In 2011, Lonergan left for GW, and Joseph joined the staff after a professional playing stint in Israel.

The Colonials advanced the to NCAA tournament two seasons later, losing in the first round to Memphis, 71-66. It was the first NCAA tournament appearance for GW since 2007.

Following a trip to Japan last summer to participate in exhibition games in the home country of guard Yuta Watanabe, GW made the decision to dismiss Lonergan. The move came following a Washington Post report that GW had fielded complaints from players about Lonergan’s behavior.

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Joseph and fellow assistants Hajj Turner and Carmen Maciariello were among the candidates interviewed for the Colonials’ vacancy shortly after the school announced Lonergan’s firing Sept. 17.

GW remained competitive throughout its Atlantic 10 schedule this season despite the school abruptly removing Lonergan for what it called taking part “in conduct inconsistent with the university’s values.” In addition, the Colonials had graduated a trio of four-year starters in Joe McDonald, Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino.

GW is expected to have back six of its eight top scorers from this past season.

“I couldn’t be more proud of MoJo,” said Vermont Coach John Becker, who was an assistant at the school during Joseph’s playing days. “I helped him get to Vermont, and he’s a special, special person. I’ve talked to him quite a bit through this year to help him in any way I could. Just the way he handled himself this year with a very difficult situation, he just handled it with class, and he’s a rising star.”

Scott Allen contributed to this report.