Former Jackson State basketball coach Denise Taylor is trying to move forward with her life after being embroiled in a three-year court battle with her one-time employer.
Taylor, who spent a decade at JSU before she was abruptly fired in 2011, was recently awarded $382,000 in Mississippi U.S. District Court last week for breach of contract, invasion of privacy and emotional distress stemming from a 2012 wrongful termination lawsuit she filed against the school.
She helped lead JSU to multiple regular season SWAC championships, WNIT appearances and an NCAA appearance.
A lengthy 20-page court document obtained by TSPN Sports outlines the case fought in court over the last two years between the school and Taylor.
The documents note several allegations levied against Taylor by JSU that include sexual harassment, emotional and verbal abuse and other improprieties that led to her firing.
These accusations, Taylor claimed, destroyed her college basketball coaching career and placed her in a state of depression and financial insecurity.
“The family strain between me and my husband was difficult,” Taylor said, who spoke about being forced to relocate from Mississippi to Texas after she was fired.
According to court documents, things started to go sour for Taylor at JSU during the 2010-11 season when the team was in the midst of a 9-19 season.
“At one point, the players turned on each other,” the document states. “Then the team focused on the coach.”
The entire roster reportedly met with high-ranking JSU officials, including, Adrianne Swinney, the assistant athletic director at the time to complain about Taylor’s behavior.
Taylor was fired on May 20, 2011.
The reasons behind Taylor’s firing were listed in a letter drafted by the school.
Student-athlete well-being, sexual gender stereotyping, misappropriation of university funds and forcing student-athletes to change classes among other supposed academic charges, said the document.
“During this time, no school administrators met with me about this,” Taylor said in an interview with TSPN Sports. “I think politics was involved as well as a change in administration.
At a trial in July two months after her dismissal, a jury ruled that the allegations against Taylor were unfounded and award her $182,000 after determining the school breached its contractual agreement.
“All I know is that did my job and did it well,” she said. “The judge and jury ruled (the allegations) were without merit.”
Of all the allegations the school levied against Taylor that seemingly was the most damning were claims of sexual harassment by a player who testified in court the coach had discriminated against her because she was a lesbian, documents said.
That claim, as written in the court documents, was described as “so weak that JSU’s trial counsel did not even mention it in closing arguments.”
Even though Taylor had won in court, she feared the publicity of the case “had destroyed her character and she would never be able to find work again.”
She applied for the open Texas Southern job to no avail.
Taylor is under the impression that being part of a messy legal battle has hurt her reputation within coaching circles to point where schools shy way from considering her as an assistant.
“In order for me to land a job, this legal case has to be closed,” she said.
Friends and family members have described Taylor state of being as in constant flux as she and her attorney fought JSU.
In the middle of her legal battle, Taylor confided in her sister that she was humiliated because she was unable to pay her family’s bills. In one instance, she reportedly openly contemplated suicide, documents assert.
“My life has been put on hold for three years,” she said. “I hope that Jackson State will now do the right thing and not continue to act in bad faith.”
JSU has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
“The ball is in their court,” Taylor said. “It has always been in their court.”