Former George Washington men’s basketball Coach Mike Lonergan believes he was wrongfully terminated by the university in the wake of an independent investigation into allegations he verbally abused players and may seek action against the school.
GW announced Lonergan’s firing Saturday. Lonergan’s attorneys issued a statement Sunday, saying the coach “will seek appropriate relief” from George Washington for breach of contract. Lonergan had almost five years remaining on his contract after signing an extension following an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014.
“He cooperated fully with the Title IX review,” Lonergan’s attorneys, Scott Tompsett and John Dowd, wrote in the statement. “The University never identified to the Coach his accuser, much less the details and the substance of the anonymous accusations. He was denied administrative due process in the form of a hearing as required by his contract and the policies of the University.
“The University failed and refused to give Coach Lonergan written notice of the outcome of the Title IX review, which is required by the University’s own policy, and the University violated the confidentiality provisions of the policy by issuing a press release about the review. He will seek appropriate relief from the University for this wrongful termination and treatment.”
Asked directly if Lonergan had plans to sue the school, Tompsett declined further comment.
George Washington confirmed Lonergan’s dismissal Saturday afternoon after news initially broke Friday night. The school announced plans to hire an interim head coach soon. Practices for the 2016-17 season are set to begin in about two weeks.
A GW spokesman said Sunday that the school had no comment about Lonergan’s belief that he was wrongfully terminated.
The university’s investigation came following a Washington Post story this summer that administrators had fielded complaints from players about Lonergan’s behavior. The accusations included Lonergan denigrating players and making repeated graphic, offensive remarks about Patrick Nero, the school’s athletic director.
Lonergan guided the Colonials to the National Invitation Tournament title this past March. The Bowie native posted a 97-70 record after moving to GW from Vermont in 2011.
But 13 players left the program in his five seasons, including three after the season in each of the past four years. This summer, players detailed wide-ranging allegations about behavior they considered abusive and bizarre.
The story prompted GW to hire outside counsel to further investigate Lonergan through interviews with former players and staff over the past two months.
“The university concluded that Coach Lonergan had engaged in conduct inconsistent with the university’s values,” Provost Forrest Maltzman said in Saturday’s statement.
GW received complaints regarding Lonergan’s alleged abuse after the 2014-15 season. While George Washington officials instructed Lonergan to moderate his behavior in private, the school offered no public rebuke and sent Lonergan a letter clearing him. Before the 2015-16 season, the school assigned an associate athletic director, Ed Scott, to embed with the team and oversee Lonergan.
GW said it is also currently conducting “a broader review” of the athletic department that will be completed in the near future.