Evans, formally out at San Francisco, considering lawsuit

Updated: March 21, 2008, 9:41 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jessie Evans is out as basketball coach at the University of San Francisco, nearly three months after the school said he had requested a leave of absence and offered no other details on the situation.

The university finally made an official announcement Thursday that Evans was dismissed by issuing a press release saying a search committee has been formed to look nationally for his successor.

Eddie Sutton came out of retirement to coach the Dons through the rest of the season following Evans' Dec. 26 departure and earned his 800th victory along the way.

Athletic director Debra Gore-Mann refused to publicly discuss Evans' status before Thursday's announcement, calling it a "private personnel matter." Evans had two years remaining on his contract worth about $600,000.

His attorney, Dan Siegel, told The Associated Press late Thursday that a lawsuit would likely be filed as early as next week seeking the money Evans is owed in the contract.

"They have unilaterally terminated his contract and he had two years remaining," Siegel said. "They owe him all compensation that is provided for in the terms of the contract."

Evans' side proposed a settlement, but the school chose to fire him with cause and doesn't want to pay him. Siegel said the school has not told Evans why he was fired.

"Jessie, his agents and I have demanded that USF provide justification," Siegel said. "Up to today they have failed and refused to do so. We had proposed a settlement but they have not put anything on the table."

USF will be one of three West Coast Conference programs with a new coach next season, joining Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.

Evans' team was 4-8 when Gore-Mann announced in late December he would be away from the team at least until this month, declining to offer further details. The situation outraged donors, who didn't like the uncertainty during a key time for recruiting.

"Mr. Evans will not be returning to the university," the USF statement said. "The committee is charged with identifying a candidate who will build and energize the program, and provide the best possible experience for student-athletes."

Sutton retired as Oklahoma State's coach after the 2005-06 season and arrived on the Hilltop with 798 victories. The Dons finished 10-21, playing well down the stretch.

Evans, who had been under careful watch by Gore-Mann over the past year, was in his fourth season at USF. He was hired from Louisiana-Lafayette in April 2004 to replace fired coach Phil Mathews.

Evans coached on Lute Olson's staff at Arizona from 1988-97 and also worked as an assistant at Minnesota, Texas, Wyoming and San Diego State.

Sutton committed only to getting USF through this season before returning home to Stillwater, Okla., his wife of 49 years, and nine grandchildren. He is also developing an addiction center at Oklahoma State for people with problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, gambling, or even prescription drugs.

Sutton came aboard and brought along assistant Robert McCullum, who, if Sutton has his way, will be a candidate for the USF job. Sutton didn't hide his thoughts about the team he inherited, either.

"This is my 37th year in Division I and this is the least amount of talent I've ever had to work with. I've really had to program myself to be patient," Sutton said. "Some of these guys have almost developed a defeatist attitude. ... I'm not downgrading them. They are what they are -- they're good college players. I've been blessed with great players. Look at my record. You don't have that record without great players."

Sutton said late in the year that he plans to offer his input on the new coach and visit next season to check on his former team and enjoy one of his favorite cities.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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