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