Women’s basketball Head Coach Keith Brown and Assistant Coach Tim Valentine were placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday for alleged misconduct, and the university is investigating accusations of verbal abuse by Brown.
Several days before the coaches were placed on leave, a member of the women’s basketball team attempted suicide, local news station WJLA reported, although there is no confirmed connection between the two events. According to sources cited in WJLA’s report, the player is now recovering at home with her family.
Brown is accused of using disrespectful language and humiliation tactics toward his players, who said they could no longer tolerate the treatment, according to multiple anonymous sources in the WJLA report.
The university denied requests from The Hoya to interview Athletic Director Lee Reed and current members of the women’s basketball team, and university spokeswoman Stacy Kerr declined to comment on how long the investigation would last, who raised the concerns or why there were two weeks between the initial complaint and the decision to place the two coaches on leave.
Former Georgetown basketball player Sydney Wilson, who graduated in May, also declined to comment for the story. Other former players, including Rubylee Wright and Tia Magee, did not respond to interview requests. Former Georgetown players Taylor Brown and Jasmine Jackson, both of whom transferred to George Mason University, did not respond to The Hoya’s request for comment, and numerous phone calls to the GMU sports information office were unanswered.
However, five active members of the team, including sophomore Katie McCormick, freshman ShaylaCooper, freshman Jade Martin and two other freshmen spoke to WJLA in defense of the coach Tuesday night. McCormick is the only player in the group to have played a regular season game under Brown.
“I think that any Division I program is going to have a coach that is intense and ready to play,” McCormick said in WJLA’s video. “I think a lot of this is blown out of proportion. It’s unnecessary.”
According to Stephen Mosher, a professor in the department of sport management and media at Ithaca College, it is this kind of thinking that allows inappropriate coaching practices to persist in collegiate athletics. Mosher provided commentary during the 2012 firing of former Rutgers University Head Coach Mike Rice, who was shown on video verbally and physically abusing his men’s basketball players.
“There is this idea that everybody does this, but, you know, everybody doesn’t do this. And even if the majority [of coaches] do do this, that doesn’t make it right,” Mosher told The Hoya in a telephone interview.
Some players were supportive of Brown’s coaching style.
“Brown is going to get the best out of us and he is going to push us, and if you can’t handle it, you can’t handle it,” Martin said to WJLA, adding that although Brown does swear, he does not direct profanities toward the players.
Sugar Rodgers, a four-year star who graduated from Georgetown in May and is now playing in theWNBA, agreed with Martin in an interview with The Hoya. She declined to comment on the reported suicide attempt.
“Coaches are going to yell and coaches may curse, but what’s in basketball, players should be able to take whatever they say,” Rodgers said. “Once you hit college, you’re basically grown — you should be able to take what people say.”
Mosher disagreed with that conclusion.
“What has come to light to the recent situation, including the one that appears to be developing at Georgetown, is this is normal; this is what coaches do to kids. They start doing it when they’re young, and this is how the culture works,” Mosher said. “And if you’re not tough enough to handle it, maybe you shouldn’t be an athlete.”
Mosher said that coaches have a responsibility to act as leaders for their players.
“Georgetown is a fabulous university. [It has] a long history of excellence in the Roman Catholic [and] Jesuit tradition,” Mosher said. “I don’t understand why the administrations at colleges believe that coaches are absolved of the responsibility of being moral and professional leaders of young men or women.”
Requests for comment by the NCAA were also not answered by press time, nor were calls to former Georgetown Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who hired Brown as an assistant and is now the women’s head coach at Auburn.