Gonzalez sues Hall, cites breach of contract
Published: Thursday, April 15, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 14:09
Bobby Gonzalez is back in the news with Seton Hall, yet the "court" in question has nothing to do with basketball.
The former head coach of the men's basketball team has filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against Seton Hall University, as announced at the federal courthouse in Newark on Friday.
The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court, in the District of New Jersey on April 9.
The suit "demands judgement against Defendant Seton Hall University for compensatory, consequential and punitive damages, for costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, and for such further relief as the Court may deem just," according to the lawsuit.
In the suit's first count, Gonzalez is seeking payment for two years worth of base annual salary, as defined in the employment agreement, which was initially agreed upon on or about April 7, 2006 and set to expire on June 30, 2011.
The second count states that there is a "Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealings."
The suit states, "Inherent in every commercial relationship and transaction is a duty of each party to deal with the other fairly and in good faith, such that one party to the contract may not frustrate the other party's attempt to secure the fruits of that contract."
It further states "as a proximate result of Defendant's intentional, bad faith and malicious conduct, Plaintiff (Gonzalez) has been damaged."
Gonzalez is also seeking that the promissory note that he signed on Dec. 8, 2006, which still has a balance of $50,000 plus interest, be voided if he was terminated without cause.
Gerald Krovatin, a Newark-based attorney, will represent Gonzalez in the suit. He told multiple media outlets on Friday from the courthouse that attempts to work out the situation involving Gonzalez's termination with Seton Hall were made but "there was no other option than to file."
He also said Gonzalez wanted to end his time at the university with "an amicable split" but it did not happen.
Gonzalez was officially terminated on March 17. That day, many of the remarks from Seton Hall Law Dean Patrick Hobbs, an overseer of athletics, and University President Msgr. Robert Sheeran spoke of conduct when it came to the decision.
"It's not about wins and losses," Hobbs said during the conference call on March 17. "It's a totality of representation by our coaches and how they represent our university and how they develop young men - that we are fulfilling the ideals of the university."
Sheeran added during the conference call that the final game of Gonzalez tenure, an NIT loss to Texas Tech, was a "crystallization of all that was really wrong with the coaching and leadership."
Paul Callan, founding partner of Callan, Koster, Brady & Brennan, LLP and professor of Media Law at Seton Hall, states that Gonzalez was "foolish not to accept Msgr. Sheeran's resignation offer on the spot because Seton Hall University will have a very strong case supporting its termination of cause."
In his final game as head coach, the Pirates lost to Texas Tech, 87-69, in the National Invitational Tournament.
During the opening minutes of the game, sophomore forward Herb Pope was ejected for hitting a Red Raider player below the belt twice.
Later in the game, Gonzalez received his seventh technical foul of the season.
Following the game, former Pirate forward Robert Mitchell, who was removed from the team on March 14, along with fellow former Pirate Kelly Whitney were arrested and charged with counts of kidnapping, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary and weapons violations.
"The university will argue that these and other incidents demonstrate a basketball coach who has lost control of his team as a result of his own bad example," Callan said.
The Star-Ledger reported that an official letter of termination to Gonzalez, dated March 19, cited cause specifically.
However, according to NorthJersey.com, Gonzalez was instructed to resign by Sheeran just two days prior to the date on the letter. Krovatin said on Friday that this would have allowed Gonzalez to collect two years of his pay, making the quick turnaround of being terminated for cause unfair for his client.
In that letter, Seton Hall advised Gonzalez that "the university is exercising its rights to terminate your employment for cause under that Employment Agreement dated December 8, 2006."
"The university, as a matter of law, has the right to withdraw a resignation offer at any time," Callan said. "That is exactly what they did two days later in this situation."
While this current Gonzalez lawsuit is the first of its kind here at Seton Hall, within the past four months there has been numerous lawsuits placed by fired coaches against universities throughout the country.
In the past five months, there have been three football coaches fired for cause and another (Fred Hill from Rutgers) is likely to be fired within the next few days, according to Jerry Carino of Gannet News.
On Mar. 17 (the same day that Gonzalez was fired), Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti told Hill that he was going to remain the head basketball coach.
Then, as first reported by Carino, on April 1, Hill was witnessed shouting profanities at a Rutgers baseball game towards Pittsburgh baseball coach Joe Jordano. After being told to not attend any more games during that series by Pernetti, Hill was scene the following day watching the games from his car. Hill's father, Fred Hill is the head baseball coach at Rutgers.
Pernetti and Hill were scheduled to meet on Wednesday to determine the coach's fate. He has $1.8 million remaining on his contract.
It was also announced on Wednesday that sophomore guard Mike Rosario has been a conditional release from the program. He has $1.8 million remaining on his contract.
On Jan. 8, University of South Florida head football coach Jim Leavitt was fired following an internal investigation that revealed he "grabbed one of his players by the throat, slapped him in the face, then lied about it," according to ESPN.com.