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Calvin Wins His Racial Discrimination Case

Jurisprudence: Jury decides in basketball coach's favor, awarding him $210,000 in lawsuit against Cal State Dominguez Hills.

September 14, 2002|BEN BOLCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury on Friday ordered Cal State Dominguez Hills to pay former NBA player Mack Calvin $210,000, ruling that he was the victim of discrimination based on race while coaching the school's men's basketball team during the 1996-97 season.

Calvin, who is African American, had his one-year renewable contract terminated after one season as coach.

The jury voted, 10-2, in Calvin's favor after four days of testimony and two days of deliberations. Calvin was awarded $90,000 for lost wages and $120,000 for emotional distress. His complaint said he required medical attention for stress and anxiety.

"The jurors spoke loudly that there was institutional racism at Cal State Dominguez Hills," said Calvin, 54, who is now boys' basketball coach at Compton Dominguez High. "I've said all along this wasn't [just] about me. People were hurt and careers had been taken from them."

Dana Cartozian, the deputy attorney general representing Cal State Dominguez Hills, said no decision had been made whether to appeal the civil court decision.

Cartozian had told the jury during opening statements that Calvin was dismissed from a job that paid him more than $60,000 a year because of the team's poor record and Calvin's lackluster recruiting efforts, inadequate fund-raising abilities, and NCAA rules violations. The Toros finished the season 7-20.

"We strongly disagree with the verdict," said Thomas Knox, senior media relations officer for Cal State Dominguez Hills. "It does not appear to be based on the evidence that was presented during the trial. The evidence established that Mr. Calvin's contract was not renewed because of a variety of documented performance problems.

"These allegations are about things that happened six years ago in a different administration. Today, the campus president, the vice president of student affairs, who is in charge of athletics, and the vice president of university advancement are African American. Also, five coaches are African American.

"Our university prides itself on its diversity and strives to maintain a fair and positive environment for faculty, staff and students."

Calvin's new team, Compton Dominguez, had been a regional power until his arrival last year. The Dons won five state titles and a mythical national championship under coaches Steve Singleton and Russell Otis from 1987-2001.

Last year, the team finished 15-12, losing more games than it had in the previous three seasons combined.

Calvin, a standout guard at USC who played four of his 11 pro seasons in the NBA, was also an NBA assistant for eight years, including two with the Clippers.

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