Attorneys for Mike Lonergan say George Washington University wrongfully terminated him as its men’s basketball coach after claims of verbal and emotional abuse from current and former players.
Lonergan’s firing was first reported Friday night and became official Saturday in a release from the university.
In July, The Washington Post reported claims of abuse and disparaging remarks made by Lonergan, who allegedly told one player his son would “always be on food stamps” and told another player he should transfer to a “transgender league,” according to the report.
Lonergan also allegedly made crude remarks about Athletic Director Patrick Nero. Five current and former players said Lonergan told players Nero requested practice tapes “so he could masturbate while viewing them in his office,” according to the report. Players said Lonergan also told them Nero had engaged in a sexual relationship with a member of the team.
George Washington hired outside counsel to investigate the claims after the report was published, according to the Post.
“The university has created and is committed to maintaining a community where all students, faculty and staff feel welcome and comfortable,” George Washington Provost Forrest Maltzman said in a statement on Lonergan’s firing Saturday. “We value inclusion and diversity and will not tolerate conduct that runs counter to those principles.
“The university recently conducted a thorough investigation into allegations concerning Coach Lonergan. The university concluded that Coach Lonergan had engaged in conduct inconsistent with the university’s values.
“A broader review of the Department of Athletics and Recreation is currently underway and will be completed in the near future. We recognize and embrace our responsibility to provide a supportive and respectful environment for all members of our community.”
In a statement on Sunday, Lonergan’s attorneys say Lonergan, who had almost five years left on his contract, cooperated with George Washington’s Title IX review.
“The University never identified to the Coach his accuser, much less the details and the substance of the anonymous accusations,” Lonergan's lawyers, Scott Tompsett and John Dowd, wrote in a statement. “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.”
Tompsett declined further comment to the Post when asked if Lonergan plans to sue the university. A George Washington spokesman told the Post on Sunday that the school had no comment about Lonergan’s belief that he was wrongfully terminated.
Lonergan led the Colonials to the National Invitation Tournament championship last spring and posted a 97-70 record in five seasons, during which 13 players left the program.
Maltzman said Saturday the university will have an announcement soon about an interim coach.