Hofstra fired men's basketball coach Mo Cassara Friday after a 7-25 season in which six players were arrested in off-the-court incidents.
Athletic director Jeff Hathaway said the actions of those players played a big part in the decision to dismiss Cassara, 38, after three seasons.
"My responsibility is to factor that all in and what the impact is on the program and how the credibility of the program is viewed by the many constituencies that we have," Hathaway said at an afternoon news conference. "When I did that, I came to the final evaluation that a change was necessary.
"Any event that involves student-athletes or staff members that brings embarrassment or taints the institution in any way, I'm not going to be pleased about that," Hathaway said.
Reached by phone, Cassara told Newsday, "I loved Hofstra. Now, as the result of some actions by some [players], I'm not able to continue that. That hurts me."
Cassara was 38-59 in three seasons and had three years left on his contract. Assistant Patrick Sellers was named the interim coach. No timetable was given for hiring a permanent coach.
Seven games into the season, starters Jimmy Hall and Shaquille Stokes and key reserves Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin were arrested and charged with burglary after Nassau police said they admitted to stealing more than $10,000 worth of laptop computers, iPads and other items from fellow students. They remain suspended from all university-related activities, including the basketball team, a spokesman said. They are out on bail and due back in First District Court in Hempstead on April 8.
But the tipping point for Cassara's job occurred in the past two weeks.
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel was charged with criminal possession of marijuana and driving without a license, both misdemeanors, after his vehicle was stopped on a Brooklyn street. The charges against Coombs-McDaniel were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal at his arraignment March 16 before Judge Robert Kalish in Criminal Court in Brooklyn, prosecutors said.
A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office said the charges against Coombs-McDaniel could be dismissed if he stays out of trouble for a period of time.
On March 12, Taran Buie was arrested by Nassau police and issued a desk appearance ticket after being charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, records show. He also was issued a traffic infraction. Arrest details were not immediately available.
Hathaway said he consulted with university president Stuart Rabinowitz regarding Cassara's future. "He asked me for my recommendation,'' Hathaway said. "I gave it to him. He concurred 100 percent."
Cassara, who was told Thursday night he was being dismissed, said he had verbal commitments from seven recruits. "I offered that to [the administration]; they still decided to make a change,'' he said. "They were focused on the amount of off-the-court issues we had in the program and felt it was time for some new leadership."
With William Murphy
and Kevin Deutsch