Former Players Defend Holy Cross Women’s Coach
Former Holy Cross women's basketball players are coming forward to defend longtime coach Bill Gibbons following a lawsuit by a former player from Colts Neck that accused him of physical and emotional abuse.
The suit was filed by Ashley Cooper, a former Rumson-Fair Haven played who was MVP of the 2009 WOBM Christmas Classic. She now attends New York University.
More than 50 former players, managers and coaches have signed a letter that refers to Gibbons as a "father figure" and someone they consulted when facing critical life decisions. "Above all, he was a leader who always taught us to do right and — more importantly — to be 'men and women for others' in the Jesuit tradition," the letter reads.
Gibbons, who's coached at Holy Cross for 28 years, voluntarily went on paid administrative leave this week while the college looks into allegations by Cooper. The 20-year-old says Gibbons grabbed her, shook her and struck her at different times, including once during a game when he left a red hand print.
Cooper's suit said players were so demoralized by Gibbons abusive tactics that the school can't have an alumni game because players are unwilling to return to play in it.
The suit is seeking punitive damages and payment for Cooper's education, alleging she was forced to give up a full scholarship due to fear of physical pain and retaliation for complaining about Gibbons.
But the letter from Gibbons' supporters says Cooper does not speak for all the women who played for him. "These allegations are far from the Coach Gibbons that we know," it reads.
The letter says the number of signatures, which it notes includes only players who could be reached within 24 hours of news of the lawsuit, shows that alumni are not demoralized. Cooper in her suit claims that Holy Cross does not have an alumni game because players are "demoralized" by Gibbons behavior and don't want to return.
The letter also says Gibbons emphasized sportsmanship and taught his players to become "our best selves."
"It does not matter that many of us never set foot on the court together — the bond that brought us together as Holy Cross women's basketball players transcends ages and the person who brought us together and guided us every step of the way was Bill Gibbons, a man that we will forever call 'Coach,'" the letter reads.
Full Bill Gibbons Letter Of Support
source: Worcester Telegram-Gazette
The lawsuit recently filed against Bill Gibbons alleges incidents of verbal and physical abuse. If there is any truth to these allegations, then we trust the College of the Holy Cross will take appropriate action. However, Ashley Cooper is not the voice of the more than one hundred women that have played for Coach Gibbons in his nearly 30 year tenure. These allegations are far from the Coach Gibbons that we know. Our hope in writing this letter is to tell the story that the media has, thus far, ignored.
From the moment we set foot on the Holy Cross campus as recruits, the idea of being a part of something bigger than ourselves took hold. Each year we had one goal – to become a “true team.”
While wins and losses were a barometer of our success, what mattered most was how we treated our teammates, our opponents, and our family and friends. The familiar words of post-game locker room speeches after a loss resound, “we tip our hats to the other team.” It was always about sportsmanship, and understanding the bigger picture of moving through life with determination and integrity. And it was always about us becoming our best selves.
He was, and still is, a father figure for those of us without fathers, and a sounding board for some of us with critical life decisions. His family took each and every one of us in and made us feel at home. Above all, he was a leader who always taught us to do right and – more importantly – to be “men and women for others” in the Jesuit tradition.
There were never just fifteen players on a team each year. There were always the stories of those who came before and an understanding of the legacy we had the responsibility to leave for those yet to come. It does not matter that many of us never set foot on the court together – the bond that brought us together as Holy Cross Women's Basketball players transcends ages and the person who brought us together and guided us every step of the way was Bill Gibbons, a man that we will forever call “Coach.”
The signatures gathered below represent only those able to be contacted within the last twenty four hours. The sheer number does not indicate that we are 'demoralized' and absent alumnae.
1-2-3 Team Together
Janet Hourihan Brooks ‘86
Susan Love Mulligan ‘86
Kim Kelley Benzan, JD ‘87
Moira Burns Folsom ‘91
Ann Lambiotte Foutch ‘91
Andrea (Tucker) Jordan ‘92
Amy Ross Comcowich, '92
Carrie (Ramenofsky) Heilman ‘93
Meghan Sullivan Crow ‘93
Beth Godfrey ‘93
Dawn (Hoegh) Ryan ‘94
Laurie (Carson) Shufrin ‘94
Mary Lee King '95
Christine Porath ‘95
Bronwyn Monahan ‘95
Kevin Kudla ‘95
Kim Lynch Leinson ‘96
Lauren (Maney) George, JD ‘96
Renee Bostic '96
Meghan Hart, JD ‘96
Kathleen Courtney, MD ‘97 Eileen Bradley ‘97
Alison (Dietz) Faery ‘98
Sofia (Pena) Sidmore ‘98
Amy O’Brien Davagian ‘99
Lara Marcsisin Gibson ‘99
Bethany McGarry ‘99
Summer Ivan ‘99
Anna (Kinne) Patel ‘00
Veronica Jutras ‘00
Ryan McGowan ‘00
Scott Dill ‘00
Monika (Rothemich) Page, MD ‘01
Amanda Abraham Hill ‘02
Elisa Zawadzkas, JD ‘02
Jeanette (Paukert) Wehrenberg ‘02
Liz O’Connor, JD ‘03
Becky Flynn Hensel ‘03
Jennifer Costa ‘03
Timothy McQuade ‘03
Patricia Fitzgerald ‘04
Mary Rose Campbell Schwarb ‘04 Maggie (Fontana) Weber '05
Caitlin (Agostinacchio) Ellingson ‘05
Lisa (Andrews) Gruber ‘05
Jessica Conte, JD ‘06
Sarah Placek, MD ‘06
Andrew J Noto ‘07
Ashley Brennan-McBride ‘07
Brittany Keil ‘07
Kaitlin Foley McCarthy ‘07
Ashley McLaughlin ‘08
Laura Aloisi ‘08
Jessica Merrihue ‘09
Jessica Pearson ‘09
Bethany O’Dell ‘10
Kelly Greenberg, Assistant Coach ’92 – ‘99
Catherine DiGiacinto, Assistant Coach ’98 – ‘04
Morgan Valley, Assistant Coach ’05 – ‘07
The Associated Press contributed to this report