The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Former men’s basketball assistant coach Dwayne Killings being sued by former Marquette player

Photo by John Steppe
Dwayne Killings stands court-side in Marquette’s 106-54 win over the University of Central Arkansas on Dec. 28.

Former Marquette men’s basketball associate head coach Dwayne Killings is being sued by former men’s basketball walk-on Luke Fizulich for assault and battery and “tortious inference with contract” stemming from a pre-game incident ahead of a University at Albany men’s basketball game in November 2021.

Killings is one of three defendants in the lawsuit. The other two are University at Albany athletic director Mark Benson and the school itself. Benson is being sued for breach of contract for failing to uphold Albany’s Violence Prevention Policy. Albany is being sued for violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 14 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleges that Killings “violently and viciously grabbed (Fizulich), threw him against a locker and struck him in the face, drawing blood,” before Albany took on Eastern Illinois University Nov. 24 2021.

Neither Killings or any assistant coaches, who witnessed the assault, reported it to University at Albany administration.

Fizulich is being represented by Stuart Bernstein of Nesenoff & Miltenberg Law Firm.

The Marquette Wire obtained a statement from Stuart Bernstein of Nesenoff & Miltenberg Law Firm. Bernstein is representing Fizulich in this case.

“The facts of this lawsuit couldn’t be any clearer — Coach Killings physically and publicly assaulted our client, student athlete Luke Fizulich, by violently hitting him in the face in the basketball locker room, to the point of drawing blood and busting stitches in his mouth,” Bernstein said in the statement to the Marquette Wire. “The assault is not in question, as Coach Killings has admitted it. This is inexcusable conduct for a Division I college coach and SUNY Albany was correctly intending to terminate Coach Killings for the physical assault of a student athlete—until community pressure made them reverse their initial decision.”

Fizulich was a sophomore walk-on on the men’s basketball team at Marquette during the 2020-21 season when Killings was an associate head coach for then-head coach Steve Wojciechowski. Following Wojciechowski’s firing after the season, Killings became the head coach at Albany and recruited Fizulich to join Albany as a walk-on. 

The suit said that sometime after he struck Fizulich, Killings told the entire team in the locker room that the reason he did it was because he wanted Fizulich and the entire team to play angry.

It also mentions that Fizulich did not initially report the assault, which the suit claims was witnessed by other players and Killings’ assistant coaches, because of “locker room culture” and “fear of losing a promised athletic scholarship for the next two years.”

Fizulich reported the assault on the morning of Feb. 27, after he spoke to his long-time trainer and former coach the night before. His former trainer and coach, “who was like a mentor and father figure” to Fizulich, persuaded Fizulich to tell his parents and the school administration of the assault after he “immediately traveled for hours to offer Fizulich emotional support” on the evening of Feb. 26.

Killings was allowed to coach the final two games of the season despite Fizulich’s report of assault. He was then was investigated by Albany for the incident last spring, which found Killings “responsible for the violent assault on Fizulich and for failing to timely report the assault.”

Following the investigation, the suit mentions that Albany and Benson initially decided to terminate Killings but that was reversed because of “racial pressure” following a protest held by local business and civil rights leaders that were “rallied up” by the public relations firm that Killings hired. Those business and civil rights leaders admitted the lack of knowledge as to why Killings’ contract was being terminated. 

It mentions that Fizulich was not informed by Albany and Benson of the decision to reverse Killings’ termination.

“Once SUNY Albany reversed their decision to terminate Coach Killings, they placed the victim of the assault at great risk of harm and retaliation by the coach and others. As a result, Mr. Fizulich, the victim, was blacklisted at other schools and has been unsuccessful in his endeavor to find another school with a basketball program that would allow him on their team,” Bernstein said. “His dreams of playing basketball in college and pursuing a basketball career in Europe are shattered, all stemming from the violent assault and retaliation by Coach Killings, and SUNY Albany’s deliberate indifference to Luke Fizulich.”

The complaint charges Albany with violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination by program that receive federal funds. The suit claims the school and Benson, “instead of protecting Fizulich as a victim of the assault, showed preference to the assaulter because of his race” as Killing is a Black man and Fizulich is White.

“The University at Albany is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all students and fully and impartially investigates all allegations of misconduct against University employees,” a University at Albany spokesman said in a statement to the Marquette Wire.

“As the University has previously stated, it immediately began its investigation into this matter and took timely and appropriate action at each stage as new information became available. The University previously disclosed the resolution of that investigation on April 2, 2022. The University cannot comment further on pending litigation.”

Killings was ordered to serve a five-game suspension during the 2022-23 season and pay a $25,000 fine in the form of donations to local not-for-profit organizations. Killings served the final game of his suspension this past Monday, the day the lawsuit was filed.

Albany is scheduled to play Saint Joseph’s University Thursday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 7 p.m. CST with Killings leading the bench.

Killings’ charges for “tortious interferences” are for allegedly interfering with Fizulich’s ability to transfer to another program. The suit said it was learned from individuals within the collegiate basketball that Killings “put a negative word out to other schools about Fizulich which caused him to be blacklisted.”

Fizulich is seeking compensatory and punitive damages related to “emotional and psychological well-being, damages to reputation, loss of educational and athletic opportunities, future economic losses and loss of future career prospects.”

He remains in the transfer portal.

Click here to read the full complaint.

This story is developing

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnLeuzziMU. 

Story continues below advertisement
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Marquette Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *