Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

November 1, 2013

Coaches grapple with line between discipline and abuse

The outrage was visceral last spring when ESPN aired the damning video showing Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice shoving his players, hurling gay slurs and throwing basketballs at their heads. He was fired as a result, along with Rutgers's athletic director, faulted for not responding more forcefully when first presented with the footage.

By all accounts, Rice was an outlier - "an animal," in the words of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie - and his coaching tactics were widely condemned as having no place in college sports.

But rare is the college coach who has never lost his composure or raised his voice to drive home a point. And as the 2013-14 college basketball season prepares to tip off, coaches, conferences and college administrators alike are grappling with the boundaries of the often-harsh language of the job.

On this topic - what exactly crosses the line in reprimanding, disciplining or dishing out what's known as "tough love" to players - the terrain is rapidly shifting. And when extreme measures are captured on video or audio, what's the likely fallout from fans, as well as bosses, who clamor for victories yet cringe over the methods?

The consequences of getting it wrong can be profound.

A profane rant can be cause for a formal complaint to an athletic director or fodder for the evening news, as it was last month at Georgetown, where women's basketball coach Keith Brown was forced to resign following complaints by some of his players of unprofessional conduct and inappropriate language.

Peppered with demeaning personal slurs, a pattern of verbal abuse can also be cause for firing - even grounds for a lawsuit. A former Holy Cross women's basketball player recently sued Coach Bill Gibbons and the school, claiming he was physically and emotionally abusive and that the school covered up the behavior.

They are but two examples of a significant, emerging trend of holding abusive coaches accountable, according to Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, lawyer and director of advocacy for the Women's Sports Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit.

While federal law covers issues such as sexual abuse, Hogshead-Makar stresses what's new here is protecting athletes from emotional abuse or bullying, which is a matter of morality. At the moment, the definition of emotionally abusive coaching is as murky as college basketball's new rule about hand-checking on defense, if not moreso.

Said John Thompson III, who is entering his 10th season as men's basketball coach at Georgetown: "At what point when I'm correcting a player does he decide, 'I'm being harassed. I'm being bullied,' or that he's in a threatening environment? If I tell him five times in a row, 'Hey kid, you're not rebounding! Hey kid, you're not rebounding! Hey key, you're not rebounding!' is he being bullied? By some definitions, possibly."

Text Only
Sports
Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Press Sports Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Stocks