Head basketball coaches at La Salle step down

Hahn and Miller resign amid rape investigations

July 25, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

La Salle University men's basketball coach Billy Hahn and women's coach John Miller resigned yesterday amid investigations into two alleged rape incidents involving players on the men's team.

"We're not going to go into detail at this point," said Hahn's attorney, Nicholas Nastasi, via telephone. "Billy won't be available to discuss it until next week, and I can only confirm the resignation. Next week we will have an announcement of a new chapter in his career."

Hahn, who was an assistant coach under University of Maryland men's head coach Gary Williams for 12 years, had been at La Salle for three years and was 37-53.

Miller, who built a 317-203 record with the La Salle women's team over 18 years, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, "There's a cloud over La Salle right now and my name is under it. ... It's better for everyone to have a fresh start."

Hahn and Miller have been on paid administrative leave since July 6. But over the past several days, a school employee said, details of an agreement between "all the parties" was worked out.

The situation has sprung from the alleged rape of a visiting 19-year-old female student June 24. Former Calvert Hall star Gary Neal, 19, a sophomore guard from Aberdeen, and Michael Cleaves, a 22-year-old guard from Paterson, N.J., face rape charges.

The charges in that case brought allegations by a 20-year-old ex-La Salle women's player who said she was sexually assaulted by a La Salle men's team player in April 2003 but was discouraged from telling police by La Salle coaches.

At yesterday's news conference, which the two coaches did not attend, Brother Michael J. McGinniss, the school's president, read a statement, but did not answer questions.

"This is a complex situation and not a judgment on the personal character of the coaches, but the university's policies and procedures are clear," Brother McGinniss said. "When it comes to the safety of our students and our community, there is no room for personal interpretation of our rules."

Federal law requires schools to inform alleged sexual assault victims of their rights to take their complaints to police.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Miller denied any wrongdoing.

"I in no way discouraged one of my players from going forward publicly with any kind of rape allegation," Miller said, adding when the former player came to him confidentially, he told her he would do anything to help her and also asked her to seek counseling at the university.

"She did not want any of this to become public at the time," he said.

Miller said he tries to help players with their problems.

"I feel a coach is also a counselor, and my players always know my door is open and if they close the door, they can rest assured I will keep things in confidence if they want them kept in confidence," he said.

Neal and Cleaves face charges of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, unlawful restraint and other charges from the June incident during an on-campus party. DNA evidence matched samples from Neal and Cleaves, police said.

The two are free on bail but are no longer enrolled at La Salle.

A preliminary hearing that was set for July 20 to determine if there is enough evidence to hold them for trial was postponed this week until Aug. 26 because one of the lawyers in the case is on vacation.

Duquesne coach Danny Nee last week said he has been a friend of Hahn's for 30 years.

"What happened with him could have happened to anyone," Nee said. "There's not a coach who doesn't worry about their players and what they'll do when they're not around."

Said Maryland's Williams: "[Hahn] did a great job at Maryland, and I hope that everything works out for him in the future. It's a difficult situation."

Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

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