Deposed USF men’s basketball coach Jessie Evans said Thursday he found out he had been replaced when he saw the news item scroll across the bottom of his television screen.
The rest of the story depends on which side you believe.
Evans told The Examiner that on Dec. 21, while the Dons were in South Bend, Ind., preparing for the next day’s game against Notre Dame, he was told via phone by an athletic department aide he was to report to athletic director Debra Gore-Mann’s office at 8:30 a.m. the day after Christmas.
At that meeting, Evans said, Gore-Mann and a human resources representative gave him two options — take a leave of absence or be terminated with cause — and that a decision was due by 4 p.m., when USF had a news conference scheduled. Evans told Gore-Mann that he would take neither choice, referred the situation to his agents at IMG and left the office to head home.
That is where he saw that legendary coach Eddie Sutton — two wins shy of 800 at the time — would be taking over the Dons on an interim basis because Evans was taking what the university called a “leave of absence” for the rest of the season.
“I don’t know if you can say it’s a firing,” Evans, who had 2½ years left on his contract, said when asked if he had been fired by USF. “I don’t know what it is.”
Gore-Mann didn’t want to discuss the details of the situation.
“Employment matters, personnel matters, it’s not appropriate to talk about them in public,” she said Thursday, issuing the same answer to questions about the timeline of Sutton’s hiring and whether the school was negotiating a buyout with Evans. “I’m not going to talk about that.”
Evans was in the middle of his fourth year with the Dons, having compiled a 45-57 record, including 4-8 this season.
When told that Gore-Mann still considers Evans the coach of the team, a situation the AD said she would address following the season, he was stunned.
“Oh, OK. That’s good to know. I’m still the coach? OK,” Evans said with a hint of amusement. “I have no comment on that.”
Prior to the phone call of Dec. 21, Evans had no inkling his job was in jeopardy. He said run-of-the-mill memos were passed between himself and Gore-Mann, but nothing in particular about his job performance.
Evans did see Sutton and the Pump brothers — Dana and David, who are coach headhunters hired by universities — at the Dec. 28 game at Long Beach State.
“I’m just disappointed to be in this position after 25 years in the coaching business,” Evans said.