UAlbany men’s basketball coach Killings speaks for first time since lawsuit; Great Danes lose

FILE - UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings in June.
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FILE - UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings in June.

ALBANY – Addressing reporters for the first time since news broke of a lawsuit field against him, athletic director Mark Benson and the university by a former UAlbany men’s basketball player, Great Danes head coach Dwayne Killings declined to comment Thursday on the legal proceeding, but said he was focused on leading his program through a difficult stretch.

Killings spoke following UAlbany’s 99-79 loss to Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia, which came three days after the Great Danes’ second-year head coach was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former Great Danes player Luke Fizulich. The lawsuit stems from a pre-game incident involving the player and coach in November 2021.

While he didn’t comment on the contents of the lawsuit, referring to a statement issued Wednesday by UAlbany, Killings did say he learned of the possibility of the suit being filed “about a week or so ago.”

“My message to [the team] was there’s a lot going on in all of our worlds,” Killings said. “Our kids go through a lot, and we have to be able to take the things going on outside in our personal worlds and not bring them into our team and the game and practices, and stay focused on the task and the jobs we have at hand.”

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Fizulich’s lawsuit is the latest twist in a turbulent period for the UAlbany (2-3 overall) program. The level of stress in the program may have shown a bit on the court Thursday night at Hagan Arena, as UAlbany quickly trailed 15-0 in a game that featured 56 fouls and saw three different Great Danes — Aaron Reddish, Tairi Ketner and Ny’Mire Little — whistled for technical fouls.

Fizulich’s lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that prior to a Nov. 24, 2021 game between UAlbany and Eastern Illinois in Richmond, Kentucky, Killings “violently and viciously grabbed [Fizulich], threw him up against a locker and struck him in the face, drawing blood.”

UAlbany’s investigation earlier this year into the incident “substantiated” that it included “inappropriate physical contact between Coach Killings and a student-athlete during a pre-game hype circle.”

In mid-April, when he addressed reporters for the first time since UAlbany’s investigation concluded, Killings said 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 responded to multiple questions addressing the investigation by referring to statements released by the university and himself and the conclusion of the school’s investigation.

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Killings was suspended for five games as a result of that investigation, and during the following offseason saw the departure of all three of Killings’ assistant coaches from 2021-22 — Hamlet Tibbs, Matt Griffin and Dannton Jackson — as well as director of recruiting and video KJ Baptiste, to jobs elsewhere in college basketball. Only seven players from UAlbany’s 2021-22 roster returned to the team this season.

Killings served the final game of his suspension Monday against Union. He sat out UAlbany’s two non-Division I exhibition games, as well as regular-season games against Towson and a pair of Division III opponents in Union and Immaculata. He served four games of the suspension before coaching the Albany Cup last Saturday against Siena, then finished the suspension Monday.

The Great Danes’ only two wins this season are against Division III opponents. UAlbany’s record against Division I opponents in Killings’ tenure is now 13-21, and the Great Danes haven’t beaten a Division I team since Feb. 20 against Maine.

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The start of UAlbany’s current six-game losing streak to Division I teams came Feb. 26 against Stony Brook, the day before Fizulich made his official complaint to UAlbany officials regarding the locker room incident with Killings.

Thursday’s loss represented a number of new lows. The Hawks (2-1 overall) opened the game with a 35-6 run and led 60-30 at halftime. It was only a series of four missed free throws in the game’s final 30 seconds that stopped Saint. Joseph’s from being the first UAlbany opponent to score 100 points in a game since the Great Danes lost 111-70 at Duke on Dec. 17, 2007.

With reigning America East Rookie of the Year Justin Neely out for the season with a torn ACL and current leading scorer Gerald Drumgoole Jr. hampered Thursday by what Killings termed as “knee swelling,” Da’Kquan Davis scored a team-high 32 points for UAlbany, which will now head to Daytona Beach, Florida for two games at the Sunshine Slam, starting Monday at noon against Austin Peay.

“My focus, for me, is our basketball team and my family,” Killings said. “That’s what the number-one focus is.”

“We’ll manage our outside world when we get to that,” he added.

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Categories: College Sports, Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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