He had three years left on his contract.
“This decision was necessary because we are not reaching our full potential on the court,” Athletic Director Tanya Vogel said in a statement. “Our university leadership and I have high expectations for what this program can achieve in the near future.”
The Colonials have advanced to the Atlantic 10 semifinals once in six seasons and have not won the conference tournament title since 2007.
Vogel, a former GW soccer player who was appointed in April, said the university will begin a national search for a replacement “who will help us get back to competing for Atlantic 10 championships and being in the conversation for NCAA bids on a regular basis.”
The Colonials were 4-14 in conference play this season, finishing tied for 12th out of 14 teams in what was considered a down year for the conference. After defeating 13th-seeded Massachusetts in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday, they put up a gallant fight Thursday before falling to No. 5 seed George Mason, 61-57.
After the game, Joseph spoke optimistically about the future, saying: “We are going to take these experiences from this year and told our guys, ‘We have nowhere to go but up.’ … I’m looking forward to seeing their growth because it was a joy to watch them grow this season.”
He did not issue a statement Friday and was not available for comment.
Joseph, a native of Montreal who played for Michigan State and Vermont, had no seniors and lost starting forward Arnaldo Toro to a hip injury seven games into the season. Leading scorer D.J. Williams did not play Thursday because of a head injury.
The Colonials lost 10 of their final 12 games, with both victories coming against U-Mass. George Mason, GW’s closest league rival, won all three meetings between the teams.
The Colonials were last in the conference in scoring and fourth from last in points allowed. In conference play, their only home victories were against the bottom two teams, U-Mass. and Fordham.
Joseph was promoted to coach of the Colonials upon the firing of Lonergan less than two months before the 2016-17 season began. The program had been thrown into turmoil amid an investigation into whether Lonergan verbally abused his players and made inappropriate remarks about athletic director Patrick Nero. Serving as interim coach that first season, Joseph led GW to a 20-15 record and a berth in the College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament thanks in part to the efforts of future NBA players Tyler Cavanaugh and Yuta Watanabe, both of whom were brought to Foggy Bottom by Lonergan.
But the Colonials saw their victory totals dwindle to 15 in 2017-18 and then nine this season. As of Friday, they ranked 290th out of 353 Division I teams in Ken Pomeroy’s statistical-based rankings, the worst in the Atlantic 10. It was the first time since 2002 — the first year Pomeroy tabulated his rankings — that the Colonials finished 200th or worse.
Attendance at Smith Center also fell 16 percent between Joseph’s first season and his last.
“This is a difficult day because Maurice has led this program with high integrity and has always been a great representative of George Washington University,” Vogel said. “He has been a part of our staff for eight seasons, earning a degree and meeting his wife, Kristen, a fellow GW graduate, here. We hope they will always feel like a part of our family.”
Bonesteel reported from Washington.
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