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How much was homophobia at play with fired George Washington Univ. coach?

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George Washington Univ. fired men’s basketball coach Mike Lonergan over accusations of abuse and homophobia.

Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament - Second Round
Mike Lonergan was fired by George Washington Univ.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

“When George Washington Univ. fired men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan, the focus was on what has been reported to be an atmosphere of verbal abuse, including language from the coach that seemed to include veiled and not-so-veiled homophobia.

“That 2014-15 season is probably the worst year of basketball I’ve ever been a part of, because of the environment,” one former GWU men’s basketball player told the Washington Post. “There was a definite point made by the athletic department to change it. But honestly, it didn’t change much at all.”

Some, like Deron Snyder of the Washington Times, seemed to point to a “generational” issue where what used to be considered “soft” is now “tyrannical.”

Today’s players don’t care much for the old standards of treatment modeled by the likes of Bear Bryant, Bob Knight, Frank Kush and scores of less-famous coaches. Concepts such as abuse and mistreatment — those terms didn’t apply in a world and a time before Twitter, Facebook and ESPN.

The original accusations of odd possibly anti-gay behavior by the coach came in the Washington Post article several months ago that mentioned an accusation that Lonergan said school athletic director Patrick Nero masturbated to practice film of the team.

The Washington Blade went so far as to ask if Lonergan was trying to “out” the school’s athletic director, putting that in their headline. It’s an odd headline given their article didn’t support the accusation of attempted “outing,” and that The Blade staff has outed at least one person in the past.

Upon Lonergan’s firing earlier this month, it was reported that he had made a not-so-sensitive reference to openly gay basketball player Derrick Gordon, who was at Seton Hall. GW played Gordon and Seton Hall last December.

From CBS Sports:

Per a source, one of the questions asked to GW players was if Lonergan referred to former Seton Hall guard Derrick Gordon as "the gay kid." Players confirmed that had happened. Gordon broke barriers in 2014 by becoming the first active men's college basketball player to openly declare his homosexuality. George Washington played Seton Hall last season, Gordon's graduate year with SHU.

While his comment about the “gay kid” sounds odd, one key thing to note is that the George Washington coaching staff did express interest in bringing Gordon to GWU before he had committed to Seton Hall. My guess is there’s more to it than we know, but it is important to remember that comments like “the gay kid” don’t necessarily equate to “I hate gay people.” It’s entirely possible that there was much worse said and more information to come out.

This story isn’t over by a long shot. We’ll keep monitoring it.