ALBANY — Dwayne Killings met Thursday inside SEFCU Arena with area reporters for the first time since a school investigation involving the UAlbany men’s basketball program he leads concluded nearly two weeks ago.
But the head coach, now a little more than a month removed from the close of a 13-18 debut season, didn’t offer much in the way of new information regarding the early-season incident that the school’s investigation “substantiated” to include “inappropriate physical contact between Coach Killings and a student-athlete during a pre-game hype circle,” or the investigation on its own.
Instead, Killings began a session of approximately 34 minutes with reporters by stating that his “goal today is just to talk about our program, talk about our season, talk about our players, talk about a bunch of things that we’ve been able to achieve,” and the 41-year-old didn’t stray far from that aim despite numerous questions regarding the incident that occurred before a Nov. 24 win against Eastern Illinois in Richmond, Kentucky, and served as the impetus for an investigation that started in late February and ended in early April. Killings met a variety of questions along those lines with responses to “refer everyone back” to the statements released April 2 by the university and Killings at the conclusion of the school’s investigation.
“At this time, the only details I’ll give is [in] those two statements, but I appreciate your question,” Killings said to one of the questions related to the incident and investigation.
In a statement early this month, the school said that Killings had “acknowledged his error, apologized, and expressed regret,” and would serve a five-game suspension next season, pay a fine of $25,000 to a local not-for-profit of UAlbany’s choosing and take part in training related to university reporting policies. Killings, in the form of a letter directed to school president Havidan Rodriguez, said at the time “that the physical contact I had with the student-athlete during the pre-game hype circle was inappropriate, and not communicating it to the UAlbany administration was a mistake.”
Killings isn’t alone in letting the school’s summary and a letter of apology from the coach serve as the sole statements on the investigation since its conclusion. Killings was the only UAlbany official to speak at Thursday’s media availability, and UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Gazette this week regarding the outcome of the school’s investigation. Meanwhile, a university spokesperson said the school “doesn’t have any comment beyond the statement,” when contacted last week with several follow-up questions related to the school’s report.
That follows an investigation during which the university generally declined to comment beyond prepared statements, an interview request for school president Havidan Rodriguez was denied, and attempts to contact Benson and Killings for comment were unsuccessful.
The school’s investigation started Feb. 27 when the university “received a complaint against head men’s basketball coach Dwayne Killings.” That complaint was made the day after a loss to Stony Brook, which was also the final game that sophomore guard Luke Fizulich was with the team. While neither the university’s statement nor Killings’ letter identified the player involved in the incident, WNYT Sports Director Rodger Wyland, who is also the UAlbany men’s basketball play-by-play announcer, first reported that it was Fizulich, which was confirmed by The Daily Gazette through a source. Fizulich has not responded to requests for comment from The Daily Gazette and formally left the UAlbany men’s basketball program a few weeks ago.
Just more than a month after it started, UAlbany first publicly confirmed its investigation several hours after a March 28 report from Stadium’s college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman revealed it was underway. Killings was eventually “temporarily plac[ed] . . . on an alternative assignment,” but was allowed to coach the Great Danes’ final two games of the season while the incident was under investigation.
Killings described the length of his time away from the team as “probably a couple weeks” in total, and that “it’s been a dizzying 10 to 12 days” since he resumed leading the men’s basketball program on a day-to-day basis.
“I think the biggest thing is the investment of time, and just kind of getting back to work,” Killings said. “It’s been great getting back on campus, in terms of getting caught up to speed with . . . recruiting, some of the things we’re trying to do on the court, [and] getting connected to campus leadership.”
Killings said he’s felt a lot of support from the Capital Region community during the last several weeks. He didn’t directly answer a question on whether he had always been “confident” he’d remain the Great Danes head coach, but said “you have to trust the process” regarding his focus during the investigation.
With the investigation complete, Killings said his focus has been on helping his out-of-eligibility players find their next opportunities, further developing his current players and recruiting future Great Danes. The program didn’t lose any of its committed recruits during the investigation, added a new commit earlier this week and Killings said potential recruits haven’t brought the saga up with him.
“Now, it’s just about moving forward and continuing to do all the things that I’ve tried to do,” Killings said. “I put my heart and soul in this program. I’ve given everything that I can to the community — and I’ll give more, and I’ll continue to do what I do.
“And we’ll move forward.”