Mike Lonergan has had a pretty successful five-year run as the head coach of George Washington, getting the Colonials back to the NCAA tournament, winning the NIT this past season and making the program an annual contender in the Atlantic 10.
He’s also made GW one of college basketball’s biggest transfer hubs. In each of the past four offseasons, the Colonials have lost three players to transfers, and in total, 13 players after left the program with Lonergan as the head coach.
On Thursday, we may have gotten a bit of a glimpse into why that is happening.
The Washington Post ran a story detailing allegations against Lonergan of verbal and emotional abuse by former players. After each of the past two seasons, according to the story, players have gone to the athletic department to complain about an “offensive, uncomfortable environment” created by the head coach. Anecdotes like this stand out:
According to multiple players, Lonergan’s critiques crossed the line from constructive to mean-spirited. He told one player his son would always be on food stamps. He told another, in front of the team, he should transfer to a “transgender league,” multiple players said.
One person close to a former GW player said he “went through hell” playing for Lonergan because of constant personal comments and critiques. One former player said he attended therapy and considered quitting basketball because of Lonergan’s language and actions toward him.
That’s bad, and in today’s PC climate and the crackdown that comes with this style of coaching, this is not a story that’s going to be going away. Division I coaches are not going to sugar coat anything. What Lonergan is saying and the style in which he says it is not unique. But when players — plural — are going to the athletics department and therapy because of what they’re hearing in practice and in the locker room, it may be time to tone it down a bit. The ‘beat ’em down to build ’em back up’ style of coaching only works when you can build ’em back up.
The other part of this story that is fascinating is the dynamic between athletic director Patrick Nero and Lonergan. According to the story, the coach was tamer this past season, as their was a member of the athletic department in practices reportedly monitoring his behavior, which is why he turned his ire on Nero. Check this nugget out:
Players said Lonergan shared his distaste for Nero in a manner both inappropriate and outlandish. Five current and former players said Lonergan made explicit remarks about Nero, among them telling them to avoid Nero because he was obsessed with them.
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.
What the what?
Like I said earlier, this is not a story that’s going to go away anytime soon.