George Washington named Maurice Joseph interim head coach of the men’s basketball team, the school announced in a statement Tuesday.
Joseph had been an assistant at GW for the past five seasons and fills the vacancy left when the university dismissed Mike Lonergan as head coach less than two weeks ago on the heels of an independent investigation into claims that he verbally abused players.
Assistants Hajj Turner and Carmen Maciariello also were interviewed for the position, according to a person familiar with the hiring process. All three served under Lonergan, with Turner retaining the title of associate head coach.
“I am eager and well prepared to begin this journey with the 13 student-athletes in our locker room and the tight-knit group of coaches that I will rely upon heavily,” Joseph, 31, said in the statement. “It is a distinct honor to have the opportunity to be a mentor to our team in this new role.”
The investigation of Lonergan followed a Washington Post report during the summer that GW had fielded complaints from players about Lonergan’s behavior. Accusations included Lonergan denigrating players and making repeated graphic, offensive remarks about Patrick Nero, the school’s athletic director.
The university subsequently opened a “broader review” of the athletic department, according to a statement at the time from Provost Forrest Maltzman. The school then announced Lonergan’s firing Sept. 17, not long after the team had come back from a trip to Japan.
The Colonials will play their first game this season Nov. 11 at Smith Center against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
“In his five years at GW, Maurice has shown himself to be selflessly dedicated to the success of our student-athletes and fully committed to our department and university,” Nero said in the statement. “His leadership ability and basketball acumen will bring focus and stability to the talented team we have this year.”
Joseph played two years for Tom Izzo at Michigan State before transferring to Vermont and playing two seasons, both as a team captain, for Lonergan. Joseph played professionally in Israel before entering coaching.
While the team is attempting to move on after school officials parted ways with Lonergan, the administration continues to brace for what could be a protracted legal process.
One day after Lonergan’s dismissal, his attorneys Scott Tompsett and John Dowd issued a statement indicating their client would “seek appropriate relief” from GW for breach of contract. Lonergan’s legal team declined to comment at the time if a lawsuit was pending or would be forthcoming.
“The University never identified to the Coach his accuser, much less the details and the substance of the anonymous accusations,” the statement from Lonergan’s representatives read in part. “He was denied administrative due process in the form of a hearing as required by his contract and the policies of the University.”
School officials have not commented publicly about Lonergan’s contention that he was wrongfully terminated. Coaches and players, meanwhile, are not being made available until the team’s annual media day that normally takes place in mid-October.
Lonergan directed the Colonials to the National Invitation Tournament title at Madison Square Garden this past March. The graduate of Archbishop Carroll High and Catholic University in the District posted a 97-70 record after arriving in Foggy Bottom from Vermont in 2011.
A native of Bowie, Lonergan also led the Colonials to the NCAA tournament in 2014 after a seven-year absence. No. 9 seed GW lost to eighth-seeded Memphis, 71-66, in the first round.
That success notwithstanding, 13 players departed the program in his five seasons, including three after the season in each of the past four years. This summer, several detailed wide-ranging allegations about behavior they considered abusive and bizarre.
Lonergan has received support on social media from several notable former players, including Maurice Creek, Isaiah Armwood and Patricio Garino.
Armwood, who transferred from Villanova, was the first higher-profile player to come to GW after Lonergan arrived. Garino played for Argentina in the Rio Olympics and signed with the San Antonio Spurs.