Dan Majerle, one of the Phoenix area’s biggest sports figures in his days playing for the Suns, has filed a complaint in Superior Court against Grand Canyon University over the handling of his firing as head men’s basketball coach and the salary he believes he is due to receive.
Arizona Sports first reported the story Monday night.
Majerle did not comment when reached out by The Arizona Republic. His attorney, Dana Hooper, provided a copy of the complaint to The Republic.
“Dan just wants what is fair,” Hooper said in an email. “This isn’t the route Dan wanted to go, but he had no other option.”
Hooper said that Majerle is seeking the full amount due to him under his contract with GCU. The law, he says, “provides for amounts under the contract in addition to other damages, as asserted in the Complaint.”
Majerle was recommended by former Suns owner and GCU advisor Jerry Colangelo to be the basketball coach as the school began its move into the NCAA Division I seven years ago. Majerle, who had a 14-year NBA career, most of which spent with the Suns including a push to the 1993 NBA Finals, became the face of the school.
But things soured last season when GCU had its first losing season (13-17) under Majerle.
On March 12, he was fired the same day the Western Athletic Conference Tournament was canceled over the coronavirus concerns.
Since the firing, the school hired former Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew to lead the men’s basketball team.
In the complaint, filed with Maricopa County Superior Court on Monday, GCU advised that it would not honor the Employment Agreement’s severance provision, denying Majerle the salary and other benefits that he is due as severance pay.
The complaint says that after his termination, GCU continued to utilize Majerle’s name and likeness for the university’s advertisements, such as prominently displaying billboards featuring Majerle and maintaining Majerle on GCU’s website as men’s basketball coach for weeks following his termination.
“GCU has already begun a campaign to disparage Majerle as part of its effort to avoid its severance obligation to Majerle by creating false and pretextual reasons for Majerle’s termination that are not ‘Cause’ for termination under the Agreement and that were never asserted during his employment as potential grounds for termination,” the complaint reads. “In furtherance of this effort, the President of GCU has disparaged Majerle in conversations with at least one of the GCU player/family. This disparagement of Majerle is an independent breach of the Employment Agreement.”
It adds that GCU operated in bad faith in its handling of Majerle’s termination and it failed to abide by the terms of the Employment Agreement.
The complaint says that interim Athletic Director Jamie Boggs informed Majerle of the firing in a phone call.
“During the call, Boggs did not give any reason for the termination and did not tell Majerle he was being terminated for Cause,” the complaint reads. “Boggs said the university decided that it was moving in another direction and said she was sorry.
“A decision to ‘move in another direction’ is not grounds for Cause under the Employment Agreement.”
Bob Romantic, executive director of public relations for GCU, issued a statement on the university’s behalf Tuesday morning:
“GCU was surprised to learn through members of the media that former coach Dan Majerle has apparently filed a lawsuit against the University. Rather than serving the University with a copy of his complaint, Coach Majerle appears instead to have provided copies of his complaint to members of the media. The University hired Coach Majerle when he had no prior head coaching experience and no college coaching experience with the greatest hope and belief that he would lead the men’s basketball program for 20-plus years. The University financially supported Coach Majerle and the men’s basketball program at the highest level during his seven-year tenure and wanted nothing but the best for him and the program. We regret that Coach Majerle’s tenure had to end the way it did, but the University is prepared to defend itself and its decision if necessary should Coach Majerle decide to continue with litigation. GCU is unable to comment further until such time as it receives a copy of Coach Majerle’s complaint and has an opportunity to review his allegations.”