Father: Weller berates players 'Mental abuse' cited

UM coach not allowed to respond to charges

March 19, 1997|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller withheld meal money from a player during a semester break this season and once called the player a "bitch" in front of the team, the player's father said yesterday.

Weller also pushed Kelley Gibson to play when she asked to slow down because of a knee ailment, said Gibson's father, Greg Richie.

"I have nothing against being tough on players. I look at [Temple men's coach] John Chaney and what he does and I understand that," said Richie. "But just as much as you spank them, you have to give them ice cream and pat them on the butt, too."

Maryland officials are investigating the complaints of six women's players against Weller and her coaching staff, and are expected to have a finding as early as today.

The Sun sought Weller yesterday for comment. However, senior women's administrator Patricia Nicol, who is conducting the investigation, said Weller would not be made available for comment.

Nicol said: "We are in the middle of the process. We do not want to do anything that will compromise this process," and declined to comment further.

Gibson led Easton High to two state championships, totaling more than 2,200 points and 1,000 rebounds. Weller, who is normally reticent about praising recruits, said before Gibson's freshman season in 1994-95 that she could become the "female Scottie Pippen."

Three games into that season, Gibson, who could not be reached for comment, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in a game against Howard and was lost for the rest of the season. Gibson returned the next year after rehabilitation, though she appeared to be hesitant about going full force on the leg.

During her first year at Maryland, Richie said, Gibson and her teammates were discouraged from talking to their parents, and were moved from dorm room to dorm room by Weller. The shifting was so frequent, Richie said, that Gibson's phone number changed five times her freshman year.

Richie said that before a nationally televised home game against North Carolina in mid-January 1996, Weller called Gibson a "bitch" at a pre-game team meal.

Gibson shot 3-for-10 from the field and scored just eight points that night, one of her worst performances of the season. After the game, Weller and Gibson's mother could be heard arguing outside the press room.

The abuse continued this year, Richie said.

He said Weller declined to give Gibson money for meals during the first weekend of the winter semester break because, Richie said, she didn't want Gibson using the money for anything other than food.

According to one former player, Weller has withheld meal money before. The player said Weller once withheld meal money from her and another player as punishment during a summer session on a weekend when the school's dining halls were closed.

In another case, in early January, Richie said he noticed that Gibson's ailing knee was throbbing and swollen and that he wanted her to stop playing.

Richie said Gibson went to Weller and asked if she could sit out practices and ride a stationary bike to maintain her conditioning.

"She told Kelley: 'That's your problem right there. You're too soft. You get more out of the program than anybody else, but you don't share anything,' " Richie said.

In mid-January, Richie said, Weller rode Gibson so hard that she left practice in tears and called her parents, wanting to transfer. She stayed, however, and continued to play. On Jan. 30, the Terps were leading Florida State by 20 with six seconds remaining when Gibson, a starter, tore the ACL in her left knee.

Richie said he contacted Nicol and athletic director Debbie Yow with his concerns and has received only sporadic replies.

"I may not ever have another reason to stand up, but I'll be damned if I won't stand up for this," Richie said. "Am I bitter because she's not a star? No. I'm bitter because she's hurt, beaten up and abused mentally and something has to be done."

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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