By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]

Howard University is looking for a new men’s basketball coach after Kevin Nickelberry resigned following their loss in the College Basketball Invitational Tournament.  The former Bison coach couldn’t save his job despite their most wins in over two decades and their first postseason appearance since 1992 when the university chose not to renew his contract.

Despite injuries, suspensions and a shroud of controversy that hovered over the team most of the season, Nickelberry may have done his best job on the Howard sideline in his second tenure there.

Kevin Nickelberry resigned from his postion as Howard University’s men’s basketball coach. (Courtesy Photo)

“I am blessed to have had the opportunity to serve as head coach at Howard University,” said Nickelberry in a statement released by the school’s athletic department. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity and am proud of what we have been able to accomplish.”

Nickelberry improved the talent base and recruited players who raised the profile of the basketball program. His recruiting prowess brought international talent from Africa and France who made immediate impact and steadily improved.

In addition to this year’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year R.J. Cole and first team all-conference guard Charles Williams, two years ago he also coached the nation’s leading scorer James Daniel.  This past season he stewarded a team with injuries that forced him to play the early part of the season with a truncated lineup, while playing their schedule of “guaranteed” games against major conference opposition that lower division programs take for their financial impact on the athletic program.

“Coach Nickelberry has laid a strong foundation for the future success of Howard men’s basketball, I sincerely wish him all the best as he pursues other opportunities in his career,” said Howard athletic director Kery Davis in his statement.

However, Nickelberry’s fate may have been sealed before the season began when he was named as a defendant in a lawsuit by two former players allegeding Howard engaged in practices that violated NCAA regulations and they reneged on scholarship promises that derailed their future basketball opportunities.

Former players Ausar Madison and Kai Tease filed a $9 million  lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court in October 2018 claiming that during the summer of 2013, Nickelberry “guaranteed” Madison “a perpetual scholarship” set to begin in the 2014-15 season, but reneged on his promise three times.

Madison also claimed that Nickelberry said he would receive a scholarship beginning the following year, but never fulfilled the commitment. Madison, who is still a student at Howard, left the basketball program in January 2017 and “has never received any funds from an athletic scholarship,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Howard knew of Tease’s learning disability and “Nickelberry personally ensured that [he] would receive all the academic support required, supplied and subsidized by Howard.” Tease claims he never received any accommodations and left the university last December.

Meanwhile, the optics of last February’s postgame melee following their home loss to the eventual MEAC regular season champions Norfolk State may have been the final nail in his coffin.  After a fight began in the stands then moved to the floor, both teams had to be separated when trying to head into the locker rooms.  Sources tell the {AFRO} that while Nickelberry didn’t encourage his players to participate in the fracas, he didn’t do enough to diffuse the situation either.

A national search has begun for a coach to inherit a program that is set to contend for the MEAC Championship immediately.  The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) meets during the Final Four in Minneapolis and Howard’s job opening appears to have caught the attention of several coaches with former ties to major college programs.