With the number of days between now and the start of games in college basketball, coaches and players across the country are working in order to make sure they’re well-prepared for the 2013-14 campaign. Practices, film study, weights and other essential activities occupy much of their time, with many wanting to simply focus on the task at hand.
Dealing with a lawsuit is an entirely different matter for a head coach and his/her program.
That’s what current Holy Cross women’s basketball head coach Bill Gibbons has on his plate, as a former player has filed a lawsuit alleging that the coach verbally, physically and emotionally abused members of the program during her two seasons at the Patriot League school. 20-year old Ashley Cooper, who now attends New York University, filed the suit in Manhattan alleging not only the abuse, but that the school ignored the allegations according to ABC News.
Gibbons’ “actions constitute the worst type of bullying because not only is defendant Gibbons her coach and supervisor, but also he is someone she is supposed to respect,” according to the lawsuit. Cooper was reduced to “fear of physical pain,” the filing states.
Cooper alleges that Gibbons also “struck another female player on the back” during a March 2013 Patriot League Tournament game against Lehigh. “Following the Lehigh incident, the player’s father verbally complained to” the athletic director, but the athletic director did nothing, Cooper alleges.
At one point, Gibbons — who would act in an “outrageous manner in his yelling, ranting, screaming and hysterics” — struck Cooper so hard he left a hand print that didn’t go away immediately, according to court papers.
In 29 seasons at the school Gibbons has amassed a record of 533 wins and 315 losses, making him the winningest coach in the history of the program. The school, which has brought in outside attorneys to review the allegations, issued the following statement to ABC News:
“The physical, mental and emotional well-being of our students is our highest priority at Holy Cross. We just received the lawsuit and are in the process of reviewing it. Ms. Cooper had brought her concern to the college and we investigated at that time. The lawsuit we received today includes a series of new allegations and we will now bring in outside counsel to review them.”
According to the roster on the school’s athletic website Gibbons is currently on leave. This is the second instance this month of a school being forced to deal with its’ women’s basketball coach being hit with allegations of abusive behavior. Georgetown head coach Keith Brown stepped down on October 10 after being placed on administrative leave due to allegations of “unprofessional conduct and inappropriate language” by some of his players.
In situations like these there’s always to short-term concerns regarding the well-being of the players and the team’s preparations for the upcoming season. But there’s also the long-term concern of the direction of the program, and how a coaching staff could possibly sell the program to recruits in light of these alleged actions.
How Holy Cross handles this lawsuit will impact the women’s basketball program well beyond the 2013-14 season.