Holy Cross University believes allegations of verbal, physical and emotional abuse brought by a Tinton Falls woman against the longtime head coach of the women's basketball team have "no legal merit."

Ashley Cooper playing for Rumson-Fair Haven during the 2009 WOBM Christmas Classic (Townsquare Media NJ)

The lawsuit by 20-year-old Ashley Cooper of Colts Neck at various times between 2011 and 2013, Gibbons, who has coached at the Worcester, Mass. college for 29 years, yanked and pulled her by the shirt collar, shook her by the shoulder and struck her on the back, leaving a red hand print.

Gibbons took a paid leave of absence from the team while Holy Cross reviewed the charges

In a statement posted to the team's website, the school says, "there is no reason for Gibbons' continued absence from the team. The College believes the lawsuit's allegations have no legal merit."

"To us, it looks like a carefully crafted non-denial," Elizabeth Eilender, Cooper's attorney, told MassLive.com. "I am concerned for the welfare of the current players, I think it's a mistake by Holy Cross. I think he's a loose cannon."

"Thrilled" to Return

Holy Cross women's basketball coach Bill Gibbons (Holy Cross Athletics)

Gibbons said he is "thrilled" to return to the bench in a statement to the Worcester Telegram.

"While I feel confident that I will be fully vindicated, I cannot comment on the allegations in the lawsuit that has been filed against the College and me,”  Gibbons said in Worcester Telegram.

He will coach the Lady Crusaders as they host Army on Wednesday night.

Cooper's suit, which Eilender says will proceed, claims opposing players would remark, “Your coach is crazy,” and the players as so demoralized that alumni basketball games are impossible because players won’t return to the Jesuit school in Worcester to participate.

More than 50 former players showed support for Gibbons after the suit was filed, signing a letter that called him 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.

The former Rumson-Fair Haven all star led the Rumson-Fair Haven Bulldogs in scoring during the 2011 as they reached the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship game. She was named girls MVP of the 2009 WOBM Christmas Classic.

Cooper left Holy Cross at the end of the last school year and transferred to New York University where she does not play basketball.


Holy Cross women's basketball coach Bill Gibbons will be returning to his position as head coach, effective today.

Gibbons voluntarily stepped aside in October of last year, after a former student filed a lawsuit claiming verbal and physical abuse while she was a member of the team. After a thorough review, the college has concluded that there is no reason for Gibbons' continued absence from the team. The college believes the lawsuit's allegations have no legal merit.

Gibbons will be back at the Hart Center for the team's contest against Patriot League rival Army on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. The team currently boasts an 11-4 overall record and is tied for second place in the Patriot League at 3-1. The college is grateful to associate head coach Ann McInerney for leading the team while coach Gibbons voluntarily stepped aside. She is highly valued and essential to the program and to the College.