Former Lafayette Men's Basketball coach Michael Jordan has sued the college for more than $5 million for violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, wrongful termination, and breach of contract. Jordan was originally hired to coach the Leopards on March 29, 2022. He became Layfette College’s 19th Men’s Basketball head coach under a 5-year contact following the retirement of Fran O’Hanlon, who coached the Leopards for 27 seasons. Jordan didn't last very long in his position, though, as he was placed on paid leave by the University in February, 2023, before ultimately being terminated in March, 2023, one year after the initial hire.
When Jordan was placed on paid leave, the school released a cryptic statement that it had received "a complaint . . . about [Jordan's] work as head coach." In his lawsuit, Jordan refutes the validity of that complaint and says that he "inherited a struggling basketball program with a team that finished in 8th place in the Patriot League" before he changed the narrative and fostered a "culture of accountability, trust, openness, honesty and hard work to Lafayette."
Yet, on February 15, 2023, with only a few games left in the season and the Patriot League tournament only 2 weeks away, Jordan was suspended by Lafayette . Per the complaint, Jordan was told "that the suspension was done because a former member of the Men’s Basketball team had written a letter to the school complaining about Coach Jordan." However, Jordan believes that this was merely an opportunity for the University to fire Jordan without paying him the entirety of his contract. Jordan says the school "used the letter as pretext to discriminate."
In the letter, the student complained that Jordan was too harsh on players and used foul language often. The University interviewed Jordan and he denied the claim. Jordan even had 45 witnesses prepared to speak on his character and refute the claims in the letter. Jordan does not know whether the school actually followed up with his offered witnesses. On March 29, 2023, Coach Jordan was terminated by Lafayette College.
In the letter firing Michael Jordan from the head coach position, the school claimed that Jordan was terminated for “gross misconduct and/or insubordination” based on the alleged findings of the school's investigation. Jordan argues that his "predecessor [Fran O’Hanlon], a white male, was the subject of repeated and severe complaints to the College for many years and was never suspended or terminated." "The allegations against the former coach spanned decades and ranged from the mistreatment of Black athletes because of their race to specifically targeting individual players for harsh treatment."
Jordan says that over $980,000 remained on his 5-year contract and he wants all of it. Further, Jordan demands $5 million for alleged pain and suffering, damage to his reputation, and loss of future earnings.
Jason Morrin is a Workers’ Compensation and Employment attorney in New York. He graduated cum laude from Hofstra Law School where he was president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. His reporting for Conduct Detrimental has been cited by ESPN, The New York Post, USA Today, Bleacher Report, and more. He may be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Jason_Morrin.