Calif. school suing organizers of failed Gulfshore Invitational

Greg Kahn/Staff
Nashville Ensworth players celebrate as they take the lead with under a minute to play against Cardinal Gibbons, Fort Lauderdale in the championship of the Gulfshore Shootout basketball tournament at Golden Gate High School on Dec. 30, 2011. Ensworth came from behind to win 62-60.

Photo by GREG KAHN // Buy this photo

Greg Kahn/Staff Nashville Ensworth players celebrate as they take the lead with under a minute to play against Cardinal Gibbons, Fort Lauderdale in the championship of the Gulfshore Shootout basketball tournament at Golden Gate High School on Dec. 30, 2011. Ensworth came from behind to win 62-60.

Alexander Getta

Alexander Getta

A California high school and its basketball coach are suing organizers of the Gulfshore Invitational, a local prep tournament that collapsed late last year amid broken contracts and empty promises.

Officials at Junipero Serra High School, near Los Angeles, filed a lawsuit in Collier County last week, seeking damages roughly equal to the $10,000 promised by tournament organizers in airline ticket reimbursement. One organizer, Alexander “Sandy” Getta, said the school’s coach has already been reimbursed by the airline in the form of travel vouchers, adding in an email it’s “absolutely ridiculous what Serra is trying to accomplish.”

Junipero Serra and 21 other high school boys basketball teams were offered $10,000 and other accommodations to play in the December 2012 tournament, billed as one of the nation’s top exhibitions. But organizers canceled the tournament a few weeks before its start, citing a major anonymous sponsor backing out. A January 2011 Daily News report found organizers didn’t fulfill contracts and made several promises to coaches and athletic directors that were false or misleading.

“Part of the reason we’re doing it is just the principle of the issue,” said John Dunlap, a Dallas-based lawyer representing Junipero Serra and Hurt. “Sure, it’s all related to the fact that the school and the coach took a financial hit, but it’s just not even close as to whether these individuals failed to keep their promises.”

In the weeks after the tournament’s cancellation, officials at several schools said they were contemplating lawsuits against Getta and Mike Horn Jr., a second tournament organizer. To date, only Junipero Serra has filed a lawsuit.

Court records show Junipero Serra basketball coach Dwan Hurt bought 17 airline tickets totaling $12,031 for the tournament. Upon the tournament’s cancellation, Junipero Serra players and coaches never used the tickets.

Getta said the lawsuit has been rendered moot by American Airlines’ reimbursement of Hurt — even though Junipero Serra officials say Hurt never received money from the airline. Attempts were unsuccessful Thursday to reach school officials about receiving travel vouchers.

“It was our policy we can’t reimburse somebody if they’ve already been reimbursed before,” Getta said.

Several of the schools still flew to Southwest Florida for three or four games organized by other local basketball coaches. Officials at all the schools contacted by the Daily News had already bought airplane tickets, and the tournament’s late cancellation made it unlikely participants hadn’t already booked flights.

Getta said he’s been in touch with most schools tied to the tournament. Some were reimbursed by airline companies, and none of those that flew to Southwest Florida requested payment from tournament organizers, he said. The Daily News couldn’t independently verify how many schools were reimbursed by airlines or Getta and Horn.

Some school officials said they feared the legwork of suing Getta and Horn Jr. outweighed the potential benefits. However, if Junipero Serra officials receive a judgment, their lawyers could collect legal fees that exceed $10,000.

Getta spoke with coaches and media members when the tournament was canceled, but he became difficult to contact in the following weeks. Coaches and athletic directors grumbled about his elusiveness. Repeated efforts by the Daily News to reach Getta in January were unsuccessful.

But this week, Getta responded to an email seeking comment, defending tournament management and his actions since its cancellation. He denied misleading coaches on certain aspects of the tournament’s promotion, including the involvement of ESPN and sports marketing giant Kemper Lesnik.

“Everything that was told to those coaches was true,” Getta said. “If you want to write the negative story, go ahead.”

Reached by phone Wednesday, Horn Jr. declined to comment on the lawsuit. Coaches and other school officials involved have portrayed Getta as more involved in the financial side of the tournament, while Horn Jr. handled planning and logistics for teams.

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