There was an unexpected coaching change in college basketball late Friday night, as it was reported by USA Today that George Washington has decided to part ways with head coach Mike Lonergan. The school did not confirm the change in leadership until Saturday afternoon. Lonergan led the Colonials to 22 wins or more in each of the last three seasons, winning the Postseason NIT this past season, but he’d come under fire during the summer following allegations of verbal abuse levied by former players.
Despite the investigation Lonergan led the team on a summer trip to Japan, and appeared to be ready to lead the Colonials once again in 2016-17. However that will not be the case, with the school announcing that it will name an interim head coach in the near future. Below is what you need to know about Lonergan, beginning with the investigation into allegations made by some former players.
1. The school was looking into allegations of “verbal and emotional abuse” involving Lonergan
Back in late-July, just before the start of the final open evaluation period of the summer, the Washington Post reported that some former George Washington basketball players accused Lonergan of verbally abusing them during practices. Per the report an unnamed player met with the athletic department’s Title IX coordinator Rory Muhammad to file a complaint against Lonergan in mid-April.
“I don’t think the guy should be in sports,” one former player said. “I don’t think what he said should be tolerated. I would like to stay at GW. I will not play for Mike Lonergan.”
While Muhammad told the player that the situation had been addressed shortly after the filing of the complaint, a second investigation began in July. For this investigation, the school brought in an outside party to assist with the case.
2. Lonergan was also alleged to have made disparaging remarks about athletic director Patrick Nero
While Nero and Lonergan both arrived at George Washington in 2011, their relationship deteriorated over the years per the Washington Post story. Per the report the relationship reached its low point following the 2014-15 season, a year in which the Colonials won 22 games and played in the Postseason NIT. Players alleged that Lonergan made disrespectful comments about Nero on multiple occasions, allegations that the head coach denied during the spring.
Five current and former players said Lonergan told players Nero requested the practice tapes so he could masturbate while viewing them in his office. The players said Lonergan also told them Nero had engaged in a sexual relationship with a member of the team. Players said they found those comments to be shocking and offensive, with no grounding in reality.
3. Lonergan won 22 games or more in each of the last three seasons
On-court success wasn’t an issue for Lonergan after leading George Washington to a total of 23 wins in his first two seasons at the helm. George Washington has won 22 games or more in each of the last three seasons, making the NCAA tournament in 2014 and the Postseason NIT in both 2015 and 2016.
Prior to his arrival at George Washington, Lonergan spent six years at Vermont where he won three America East regular season titles and reached the NCAA tournament in 2010. Lonergan led the Catamounts to 23 wins or more in four of his six seasons in Burlington.
4. George Washington is coming off of a season in which it won 28 games and the Postseason NIT
While the Colonials didn’t make good on the expectations that they would be an NCAA tournament team in each of the last two seasons, they did manage to win a total of 50 games. Twenty-eight of those wins came during the 2015-16 season, as the Colonials finished with an overall record of 28-10 and defeated Valparaiso in the Postseason NIT title game.
George Washington finished 11-7 in Atlantic 10 play, and they lost to eventual Atlantic 10 tournament champion Saint Joseph’s in the quarterfinal round of that event. The loss to the Hawks punched GW’s ticket to the NIT, where they defeated Hofstra, Monmouth, Florida and San Diego State before taking care of Valparaiso in the title game.
5. The next head coach will have to account for the loss of three of the team’s top five scorers from a season ago
No announcement has been made with regards to who will take over in an interim role, but whoever gets the job will have some key personnel losses to account for. While leading scorer Tyler Cavanaugh (16.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is back for his senior season, forwards Patricio Garino and Kevin Larsen and guard Joe McDonald all exhausted their eligibility last season.
Junior forward Yuta Watanabe (8.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg) will be asked to figure more prominently on both ends of the floor, and Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina is eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules. Eight of the team’s 13 players entering the 2016-17 season are underclassmen, with six being freshmen.