Player’s mom to pay $50,000 to settle Woodbury HS basketball coach’s defamation lawsuit – Twin Cities
Nearly nine years after leading a campaign of lies to get her daughter’s basketball coach fired, a Chanhassen woman has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the coach’s defamation lawsuit.
Julie Bowlin, 55, also signed documents Monday admitting she made numerous false accusations against Nathan McGuire, leading to his 2014 dismissal as Woodbury High School girls basketball coach.
The settlement comes three years after the Minnesota Supreme Court revived the lawsuit, finding for the first time that a parent’s criticism of a high school coach is not protected by the First Amendment because a coach is not a public figure.
“It feels good to close this chapter,” McGuire, 47, said in an interview Monday at the Washington County Courthouse in Stillwater. “Hopefully, some of what we’ve done here will create some safeguards for other coaches because it went to the Supreme Court.”
In 2011-12, McGuire coached varsity girls basketball at Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield where Bowlin’s daughter, Brooke, played for him as a standout seventh-grader.
McGuire left for the Woodbury job a year later, and Brooke followed, enrolling at Woodbury to play for him as a freshman.
But a week into the 2013-14 season, Julie Bowlin became angry when McGuire had Brooke scrimmaging with junior varsity players, according to a letter she signed as part of the legal settlement.
Over the next two weeks, Bowlin met with the booster club leadership, activities director and principal, falsely claiming McGuire had been fired from his last job as she sought to ensure more playing time for her daughter.
Bowlin even spoke with an attorney about possibly suing McGuire before finally enrolling Brooke at another school on Dec. 9, 2013, 16 days after the scrimmage.
Still, Bowlin continued to try to get McGuire fired.
She, along with the mothers of Woodbury players who were unhappy with McGuire’s coaching decisions the year before, convened a January 2014 meeting with the superintendent and human resources director where Bowlin accused McGuire of “bullying, pushing, manipulation, harassment, aggression and other forms of maltreatment” against numerous players, according to the signed letter.
South Washington County Schools quickly suspended McGuire from coaching and hired a law firm to investigate.
A week later, Bowlin filed a student maltreatment report with the Minnesota Department of Education and urged other mothers to do the same.
“It just never stopped with this lady,” McGuire said. “Nothing was good enough. And she was getting her way after pulling her kid; she already had me suspended.”
Bowlin admitted in the signed letter that “all of these allegations were false,” and both the district and state investigations cleared McGuire of any wrongdoing.
Yet, in March 2014, the school district declined to renew McGuire’s coaching contract, although he continued to teach kindergarten.
That August, Bowlin acknowledged as part of her settlement, she continued to lie about the coach, telling a parent that McGuire may lose his teaching job and that “he was recently put in jail” for mistreating players.
ANOTHER JOB LOST
McGuire initially filed the defamation lawsuit in federal court in 2014 and included South Washington County Schools as a defendant. The case moved to state court in 2015 after a federal judge dismissed the counts against the school district, finding that McGuire’s year-to-year coaching contract gave the district wide latitude in whether to keep him in that position.
McGuire, shocked that the district didn’t bring him back as coach, said he applied for roughly 50 basketball coaching jobs and heard back on maybe five. He went on a successful four-year run coaching girls basketball at Minneapolis South High School but could get only middle school track and volleyball coaching jobs in his home school district.
Even that ended in 2020, when the head girls basketball coach at East Ridge High wanted McGuire to be his assistant but the school district refused.
“Within a week, I was told I could never coach in the district again,” McGuire said. “This lady that was in my district for two months basically destroyed everything.”
The two sides were scheduled for trial Monday morning when the settlement was reached.
McGuire’s attorney, Don Mark, said he had a long list of coaches and former players lined up to testify in McGuire’s favor.
“The one disappointment for us today is that we didn’t get to provide the testimony of these various people that have been supportive of Nathan in open court,” he said.
Besides the multiple appeals, the case took so long to resolve, in part, because of Bowlin’s third bankruptcy filing, in 2020. Her debts related to the defamation lawsuit were excluded from those proceedings.
Mark said that through a life insurance policy, Bowlin must pay McGuire a total of $50,000 with a series of $300 payments. But if she fails to pay or otherwise violates the settlement agreement, that judgment becomes $350,000, Mark said.
“Perhaps the most significant part is actually getting the truth out after all these years,” he said.
Bowlin’s attorney, Tim O’Brien, declined to discuss the case at the courthouse Monday morning and did not respond to another request for comment.
Next up for McGuire is getting one of his old South Washington County Schools coaching jobs back.
“We’re hoping with this letter, with this settlement,” he said, “that maybe I can work again with the youth in the district that I teach.”
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