Holy Cross women’s basketball head coach Bill Gibbons voluntarily offered to step back from his coaching duties, on Oct. 16, while the College reviews claims in the lawsuit filed by a former student and member of the basketball team. Gibbons will be on administrative leave with pay while the situation is under review.
Holy Cross and Gibbons were sued by former player Ashley Cooper, 20, on Oct. 15, in New York City. The suit alleges that Gibbons was “verbally, emotionally and physically abusive.” Cooper is seeking compensation for the costs of the college education she’ll have to pay for after giving up her scholarship, as well as unspecified punitive damages, according to her attorney, Elizabeth Eilender.
Cooper’s suit also names athletic director Richard Regan Jr. and associate athletic director Ann Zelesky as defendents. Regan, who has been the AD for 15 years at the school, announced on July 2, he will step down from his post once a successor has been found.
Cooper played in 21 of Holy Cross’ 32 games last season. She averaged 4.7 points per game and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. She is currently enrolled at New York University but is not playing basketball.
Gibbons, “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else ever again,” Cooper said in an interview with ABC News. “I want to stop it. I’m doing this for other people. I’m taking a stand for others, for every freshman that walks through the door.”
In a statement to ABC News, the college said: “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.”
Gibbons’ behavior, according to the suit, was worse than Rutger’s men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, who was fired this spring after video surfaced showed him berating and kicking players and throwing basketballs at them during practice.
Cooper alleges Gibbons “violently yanked and pulled [her] by her shirt collar and strongly squeezed the back of her neck causing pain while barking instructions in her face at close range,” according to court documents. She also alleges that other players were shook by the shoulders and struck during practices and games.
The lawsuit alleges university officials knew of the abuse but did not stop it.
Gibbons was preparing for his 29th season as head coach at Holy Cross. He has compiled a 533-315 record and is the winningest basketball coach, for men or women, in school history. His teams have made 11 NCAA tournament appearances.
Associate head coach Ann McInerney along with assistant coaches Chante Bonds and Matt Raquet will coach the team until the situation is resolved.