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Former Lafayette men’s basketball coach sues school claiming racial discrimination, wrongful termination

Former Lafayette College men's basketball coach Mike Jordan, who was let go last season, has sued the college. (Contributed photo)
Former Lafayette College men’s basketball coach Mike Jordan, who was let go last season, has sued the college. (Contributed photo)
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Former Lafayette College men’s basketball coach Mike Jordan has sued the college, alleging racial discrimination and wrongful termination from his position coaching the men’s basketball team.

Jordan, a former Penn basketball player and a Big 5 Hall of Fame member, took over as the school’s head coach in March 2022 after Fran O’Hanlon retired. He was placed on paid leave less than a year into the job in February as the school said it was investigating a complaint it received “about his work as head coach.”

Lafayette officially moved on from Jordan in March and elevated interim coach Mike McGarvey to head coach, saying it had “decided to move the program in a new direction following the conclusion of an outside investigation.”

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, says Jordan “has not been provided any written information about the investigation and its findings despite repeated requests.”

The suit includes two counts of wrongful termination and one count of breach of contract. Jordan is seeking $5 million in the suit, which claims he is owed the full payment of his five-year contract, amounting to more than $980,000. The rest of the amount sought is for “damages to his reputation and the loss of future earnings,” according to the suit, as well as “pain and suffering.”

According to the complaint, Jordan was placed on leave after the school received a letter from a former player. The letter said Jordan’s coaching was “too rigorous, and that his language around players was too harsh,” according to the lawsuit. Jordan was interviewed by the university and “cooperated fully with the investigation,” according to the complaint. The suit also says Jordan gave the school names and contact information for more than 45 people to refute the claims of the letter.

Lafayette declined comment.

The suit disputes that Jordan was fired for cause and says Lafayette first asked Jordan to resign, “proving that it had no basis to terminate.

By hiring McGarvey, whom Jordan brought to Lafayette when he was hired in 2022, Lafayette “dispelled any notion that there was something wrong with Coach Jordan’s method of coaching,” the suit says.

“Lafayette College’s reason for termination was a pretext to terminate Coach Jordan without having to pay him what he was owed under his contract and a pretext for racial discrimination,” the complaint reads.

O’Hanlon, the suit claims, “was the subject of repeated and severe complaints” to Lafayette “for many years and was never suspended or terminated.”

Jordan was placed on leave with only a few games left in the regular season. Lafayette lost its final four games to finish tied for sixth in the 10-team Patriot League. The Leopards then went on an improbable run to reach the final game of the league’s tournament, falling one game shy of reaching the NCAA Tournament in a loss to Colgate, a team coached by Jordan’s friend and former Penn teammate Matt Langel.

Jordan, a Germantown native, starred at Abington Friends before helping Penn win two Ivy League titles during his four years. He was a three-time first-team All-Ivy League selection. Jordan’s Penn career was bookended with honors — he won the league’s top freshman award in 1997 and was later named Ivy League player of the year in 2000 as a senior after scoring 16 points per game. Jordan was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022.

Before starting his coaching career, Jordan played professionally in nine countries. Before being named Lafayette’s head coach, he spent nine years as an assistant coach under Langel at Colgate, with a one-year stop at Drexel.

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