Coach Who Went After the Knicks Loses Suit
(CN) - The New York Knicks and assistant general manager Allan Houston need not face slander claims by a job-hunting coach, a New York appeals court ruled.
Arthur Rondeau calls himself a "peak performance coach" whose drills and exercises allow an athlete to improve his performance by accessing his "mental zone."
In the late 1990s, Rondeau had allegedly been working with Chris Dudley, a now-retired center for the Knicks whose poor average at the free-throw line set records, according to ESPN reports.
Houston had also been playing for the Knicks at the time and allegedly noticed improvement in Dudley.
Rondeau said he worked with Houston but never received credit for helping him break a shooting slump and take the Knicks to the 1999 NBA Finals, which they lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
That training also allegedly helped Houston make the 2000 Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2000 and 2001.
Rondeau said Houston did not give him credit when interviewed by The New York Times, and that Houston made negative comments about him to reporters for Sports Illustrated and the Providence Journal.
The coach claimed in a 2011 complaint that he eventually confronted Houston about his "longstanding and ongoing effort to discredit Rondeau and impede his career development." Houston allegedly then promised to help get Rondeau a job with the National Basketball Association.
Rondeau said he was close to getting a job with the Knicks in 2009 but that the team went another way because of Houston.
The coach's complaint accused Houston, now assistant GM for the Knicks, of telling a reporter that Rondeau was trying to "blackmail" him. Rondeau said Houston's allegedly slanderous remark, combined with pressure from the franchise, spiked what would have been a positive and career-boosting article about him.
The Manhattan Supreme Court judge dismissed Rondeau's claims, and the Appellate Division's First Department affirmed on June 26.
Rondeau's claims failed "for lack of specificity and definiteness," the ruling states.
As for Houston's "blackmail" remark, the five-judge appellate panel called that statement "a fair characterization of plaintiff's letter."
The defendants and their attorneys also did not defame Rondeau in court papers because their statements are protected by judicial privilege, the court found.
Rondeau reportedly used to work with motivational speaker Tony Robbins.