Tuesday, March 11, 2008

From Flint to San Francisco...and out of a job

Jessie Evans, who coached the Flint Northwestern basketball team from 1973-1976, finds himself in a strange predicament in California.

Debra Gore-Mann,
the athletic director at the University of San Francisco — where Evans had coached since 2004 — announced on December 26 of last year that Evans had requested a "leave of absence" for the remainder of the 07-08 season. When asked why the leave was necessary, USF clammed up, and Evans was quickly replaced on an interim basis by coaching legend Eddie Sutton.

That was a little weird. Then SF Weekly ran a story showing that things were even weirder:

Evans says he neither requested nor consented to a leave. He suspected his job was in jeopardy on Dec. 22, after receiving a message from one of Gore-Mann's subordinates while he and the team were in South Bend, Indiana, to play Notre Dame. The message instructed him to be in the AD's office at 8:30 a.m. the day after Christmas.

That meeting lasted only a few minutes. Evans says that Gore-Mann opened it by telling him that he was relieved of his duties as head coach.

"I said, 'Huh?' And that's when she presented me with a piece of paper and gave me an ultimatum," Evans recalls. "She said I could either take a leave of absence, saying that it was due to health or personal reasons, or that I would be fired with cause by 4 o'clock that afternoon."

Evans says Gore-Mann never said what cause she had to fire him, and that as far as he was concerned, he left her office as USF's basketball coach. He learned otherwise an hour or two later, he says, after news of Sutton's acceptance of the job scrolled across his TV screen as he watched ESPN.

Now that the season is over, USF officials are claiming Evans committed several "secondary" NCAA violations.

"When you have multiple NCAA violations, even if they're minor, the problem you have with the NCAA is called 'loss of control,' " USF attorney Michael Vartain told Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle. "That means they don't trust that your coach is accountable for the program."

Evans has no comment on the alleged violations, and he's lawyered up to fight the Jesuit university over the balance of his contract or a negotiated settlement.

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