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6 minutes ago, Eli said:

So this didn't happen in a hype circle as we were previously told? 

According to the allegations...no.  A hype circle and an individually grabbed player (for whatever reason) are two separate things.

Look, you simply cannot put your hands on a player. That died with Bob Knight.  Under NYS law, any touching that is not with your permission is potentially battery (assault under NYS if I remember correctly as it used to be a separate charge but now it is one and the same).  

Any touching was stupid...if it indeed occurred...and if it was not part of a hype circle then it is even worse because it gives the air of divergent stories. 

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From the Albany Times Union:

Ex-player sues UAlbany, coach

Complaint from Fizulich alleges decision not to fire Killings racially motivated; AD named

 

By Abigail Rubel

image.ashx?kind=block&href=HATU%2F2022%2F11%2F17&id=Pc0011000&ext=.jpg&ts=20221117073920
Hans Pennink / Special to the Times Union

UAlbany basketball coach Dwayne Killings embraces Luke Fizulich during a Feb. 2 game in Albany. Fizulich said Killings assaulted him before a Nov. 24 game.

image.ashx?kind=block&href=HATU%2F2022%2F11%2F17&id=Pc0011900&ext=.jpg&ts=20221117073920

BENSON

ALBANY — State University at Albany men’s basketball coach Dwayne Killings, athletic director Mark Benson and the school have been sued by former player Luke Fizulich over a pregame incident that occurred a year ago.

The federal complaint alleges that Killings “violently and viciously grabbed (Fizulich), threw him up against a locker and struck him in the face, drawing blood” as the team was getting ready to play Eastern Illinois University on Nov. 24, 2021.

Killings was investigated by UAlbany for that incident last spring and was found to have made “inappropriate physical contact” with a then-unnamed student in a pre-game “hype circle.” He was fined $25,000 and served a five-game suspension that concluded Monday, the day the suit was filed in the Northern District of New York.

Fizulich had previously been rumored to be the player involved in the incident.

The suit, first reported by The Daily Gazette, claims that the school initially decided to terminate Killings at the conclusion of its investigation, but that a press conference held by local business and civil rights leaders “rallied up” by a public relations firm working for the coach, who is Black, pressured the school to back off that decision — without informing Fizulich, who is white.

The suit claims that Benson and UAlbany, “instead of protecting Fuzulich as a victim of the assault, showed preference to the assaulter because of his race.” It alleges the school violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination by programs that receive federal funds.

Killings could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, when the basketball team was traveling to Philadelphia by bus for a Thursday game at Saint Joseph’s University. A UAlbany athletics spokesperson declined to comment, and Benson directed the Times Union to a university spokesman.

“The University at Albany is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all students and fully and impartially investigates all allegations of misconduct against university employees,” the spokesman said in a statement. “As the university has previously stated, it immediately began its investigation into this matter and took timely and appropriate action at each stage as new information became available. The university previously disclosed the resolution of that investigation on April 2, 2022. The university cannot comment further on pending litigation.”

The complaint charges Killings with assault and battery as well as “tortious interference” for allegedly impeding Fizulich’s ability to continue his studies at UAlbany and his participation in the basketball program, and for allegedly interfering with his ability to transfer to another team by putting “a negative word out to other schools about Fizulich which caused him to be blacklisted.”

Benson is being sued for breach of contract for failing to uphold UAlbany’s Violence Prevention Policy, according to the suit.

The suit claims that Fizulich did not initially report the assault, which was allegedly witnessed by every assistant coach and player on the team, because “he was humiliated, because of ‘locker room culture,’ and because of fear of losing a promised athletic scholarship offer for the next two years.” No one else on the team appears to have reported it.

Sometime after the incident, the complaint states, Killings told the team in the locker room that he struck Fizulich because he wanted him to “play angry, and he wanted the whole team to play angry.”

Fizulich was a sophomore walk-on who transferred to UAlbany from Marquette University, where Killings had been an assistant coach. He played 133 minutes in 22 games, scoring 38 points.

Toward the end of the 2021-22 season, Fizulich had “a breakdown” and reached out in late February to a longtime trainer and former coach, who “immediately traveled for hours to offer Fizulich emotional support.” The coach persuaded him to tell his parents and report the alleged assault to the school, which he did on Feb. 27 with two games left in the regular season.

Killings coached those games; news of the investigation became public on March 28. In early April, UAlbany announced that he would be punished by the fine and suspension. The school also shared an apology letter from Killings to university President Havidan Rodriguez.

“I realize that the physical contact I had with the student-athlete during the pre-game hype circle was inappropriate, and not communicating it to the UAlbany administration was a mistake,” Killings wrote in the letter. “Neither action will be repeated, and the pursuit of success within my program is of paramount importance.”

After UAlbany reversed its decision to terminate Killings, Fizulich sought to transfer but was told by several schools that interviewed him that “they did not want him because he was ‘messy,’ meaning that because his name was associated with the reported assault and publicized, no school would accept him on their basketball team,” the complaint states.

Fizulich remains in the transfer portal.

Two other UAlbany players, Jamel Horton and Jarvis Doles, successfully transferred in the off-season — Doles to University of Maryland/Baltimore County (near his home in Baltimore) and Horton to Mississippi State. The men’s basketball staff also underwent a near-complete turnover, with Matt Griffin, Hamlet Tibbs, Dannton Jackson and K.J. Baptiste all leaving for other programs.

Fizulich is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages” related to his emotional and psychological well-being, reputation and the loss of educational and athletic opportunities and future career prospects, including future economic losses as a result of his inability to continue his basketball career.

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1 hour ago, McFan said:

Speculation but maybe all of the assistant coaches leaving was a sign.  They all allegedly witnessed this and now they are all gone?

Absolutely, many including myself saw the resignations as a sign that incident was more serious than portrayed by the UAlbany Sports Administration.  The assistant coaches likely concluded the atmosphere surrounding the program was toxic and to stay would be career ending if the sudent-athlete iled a lawsuit.

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1 hour ago, McFan said:

Speculation but maybe all of the assistant coaches leaving was a sign.  They all allegedly witnessed this and now they are all gone?

I know of one coach where this is a fact   

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11 minutes ago, Dane96 said:

So if he was given his promised scholarship he would have been ok with getting thrown up against a locker? Killings will land on his feet somewhere else and Fiz will still be blacklisted. 

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16 hours ago, Dane96 said:

Just saw that the law firm is Nesenoff & Miltenberg.  I am familiar with them through work.  I wouldn't want to be tussling with them...they are pretty good at what they do. Lead counsel is very good. 

Pays off to come from money 

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12 minutes ago, Dane96 said:

What are you talking about   These cases are on contingency    

You are right. Don’t know how that process works, but I know it still pays to come from money as his family probably knew the best firms out there that would listen and entertain taking them on. He’s not some poor inner city kid who got tossed around by his coach.

Edited by UA'08
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This is not a political statement, but a statement of fact about our world right now:

That this was covered in the NY Post, one of the most conservative leaning "newspapers" in the country, means that this thing is not going to go away and is going to be used as a litmus test/bellwether for university race relations/white privilege/inequitable treatment (etc, you get the point) by a lot of the squawking heads who populate that sphere.  20 bucks says this thing goes national and is used as a wedge in some circles.

Regardless how this turns out, because people are convicted by the reaction to the media, or by some in the media, this ain't gonna be good for the school.

Crap.

 

 

 

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40 minutes ago, UA'08 said:

You are right. Don’t know how that process works, but I know it still pays to come from money as his family probably knew the best firms out there that would listen and entertain taking them on. He’s not some poor inner city kid who got tossed around by his coach.

Not how it works, brother.  You just go and interview firms...the firms decide if you have a case and if they want you, then you decide if you want them.  Anyone with access to the internet, family, and friends can find a good firm.  It's all about the case.  

How do you know Fizulich comes from money...i certainly don't?

Either way, it is irrelevant.  His lawyer literally was a NY ADA early in his career for one of the best DA's this country has ever seen, Robert Morgenthau.  In short, his lawyer isn't the type to take an ambulance chasing case...so they must think this has some legs because they are doing it on contingency.

Contingent claims are usually broken down into the following tiers:

-Law firm takes expenses off the top of any recovery

-Law firm then takes 33 1/3 of the recovery up to a certain value

-Then there is a tiered system on anything above that certain value where some firms will either take less of the recovery, at let's say 20% over X million...while other firms go HIGHER, meaning they take 40% over x million recovered...with the first x dollar amount at 33.3%.

-Or there can be a blended recovery rate percentage.

IN short, there are critical items from the allegations that need to be cleared up, and let us be clear...these are JUST ALLEGATIONS from one side:

1. The claim that this was not in a hype circle.  If this was not in a hype circle, then this casts immediate doubt on DK.  Did he tell his superiors the truth?

2. The claim that the University's review led to enough objective criteria that they felt warranted his termination, and made that decision.  If so, that means they thought they had enough to protect themselves against unlawful termination claims.

3. The claim, which was rumored for a bit, that a PR firm drummed up local support that led to a reversal of the decision to terminate DK by the University.  If the firm was paid for by DK or intermediaries, it is a really bad look. Crisis Management 101- DO NOT HIRE A PR FIRM IF YOU HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE.  This is basic corporate governance stuff and while DK is not a corporation, it just looks bad if this allegation is true. If it was done by intermediaries, who were they...the BCA, some other organization, etc...and did DK reach out.

4. If indeed the school had enough evidence to terminate and then reversed their decision because of outside pressure--and it turns out the allegations were well founded--  then this is a bad look for whomever authorized the reversal.

5. Did DK say anything to ANYONE including, but not limited to, schools, coaches, other staff members, etc. about Luke that would cause him to be persona non grata at other university basketball programs.  I tell my HR team all the time: Tell your staff that when they receive calls about someone's previous employment with us, you answer in the following manner: "X worked here from a date to b date.  X's title was Y".  That is it.  If they are asked about salary, "It is confidential for competitive business reasons".  If they as about whether they would rehire the person: "As a company policy, we don't evaluate whether or not a former employee would be eligible for rehiring".  Anything else...and I do mean anything else...opens a company up to lawsuit. The same philosophy flows in this situation. I hope to god DK didn't say a thing about Luke to anyone.  That being said, lets be practical...things are said in the real world...even by my staff...but you try to minimize those when dealing with high risk employees.  Luke was a high risk situation for the university, so nothing should have been said...and hopefully nothing was said.

6. The claims about getting a scholarship- that's nonsense...meaning, scholarships are renewable on a yearly basis...so while DK may have said Luke was getting a ride for the next two years by no means is DK obligated to do so, unless there was some contractual document stating otherwise with consideration granted by Luke to the school...which would basically be an NCAA violation.   I HIGHLY DOUBT THIS CLAIM HAS LEGS.

In the end, these are all allegations. To be fair to all, usually in these circumstances the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I think DK probably did something he regrets and I generally think he's a very good person.  People make mistakes.  However, the days of touching student-athletes died with Bobby Knight.  I am no snowflake...and I actually appreciate the old school nature of coaching, I think kids are generally coddled way too much these days.  However, you simply cannot grab a kid and push, shake, or otherwise touch them in a manner that is unwanted.  It's one thing to grab a player and gently move them to a spot on the floor, etc.  It's another to go beyond that...but I also don't think if it was a "we are all in a pre-game hype circle, let's shake each other" situation that it would be bad.  And that's ultimately the excuse that was sort of kind of released by the school as the reason for him staying.  However, if it was not a hype circle...then we have a major problem.

The real issue here is the management of this whole thing.  The school did a piss poor job of managing the PR on this, and the school ABSOLUTELY was in a crisis management situation where they did need a PR firm.  They handled the communications on the subject poorly.  To make matters worse, in picking and choosing the games that DK served his suspension...that is a real thorn in the rib cage move to the kid and his family.  The school wanted the Siena game to be coached by DK because of the optics and they wanted a win...and that was a massive mistake.  No doubt Luke's camp was fired up over this decision.  The school should have done what Kansas did with self.

In the end, I hope that the University and DK are all in the right, this is an angry kid who just isn't going where he wants to go...and everything is up to snuff (other than the stupidity of allowing DK to not sit 5 D1 games ).  IF the school is smart, we never find out because they settle with Luke well before depositions are taken.  If they don't settle, we will ultimately find out much of the truth through depositions...and for the school's part and DK's part...I hope they make it out.

We shall see...but make no mistake, the history of Luke's attorney is not the type to take up a claim he doesn't believe has legs.  He is basically taking out a few 100k out of the firm's pockets to pursue the claim...so he expects a settlement or victory. 

Edited by Dane96
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