|Despite basketball players' protests, AnnMarie Gilbert is still on the job|
|Detroit Mercy coach cleared of abuse charges|
|Published Tuesday, June 8, 2021 9:10 am|
|Former Virginia Union women's basketball coach AnnMarie Gilbert is still at Detroit Mercy despite allegations of emotional, physical and mental abuse by her players. An independent investigation cleared Gilbert.|
AnnMarie Gilbert lives to coach another day.
In January, Gilbert looked to be on her way out at Detroit Mercy after their remaining season was canceled due to player protests.
Gilbert was in her first season at UDM after coaching five seasons at Virginia Union, where she raised the women’s basketball program to a whole new level.
Gilbert was hired by then athletic director Joe Taylor after being out of coaching for three years due to NCAA violations as a head coach at Eastern Michigan that prohibited her from coaching. She constantly thanked Taylor for giving her a second chance when no one else would.
So, it came as quite a shock when allegations surfaced accusing her of reverting back to her Eastern Michigan ways.
Parents of every player on the UDM team signed a letter that was sent to athletic director Robert Vowels (former SIAC and SWAC commissioner and good friends with Gilbert), the UDM president and the NCAA accusing Gilbert of emotional and verbal abuse. According to media reports, Vowels met with the team and individual players but refused their suggestion of replacing Gilbert with an assistant coach for the remainder of the season. So, the season was canceled.
Three months later, Vowels said an independent investigation found the allegations of emotional, physical and mental abuse unsubstantiated. “Coach AnnMarie Gilbert will continue as its head coach,” the school said in a release. “The University has implemented additional measures to ensure that the women’s basketball program operates consistently within the core values and mission of Detroit Mercy and the bylaws of the NCAA.”
Charlotte native and UDM guard Jiera Shears went public on Twitter about Gilbert and the accusations, and later spoke with the Detroit media. Shears expressed how disappointed the players were after learning last month that Gilbert was staying.
“Our cries for help were not taken seriously,” she told The Detroit News. “It was extremely disappointing.”
An email of the five-page letter written by the parents to Vowels has been widely circulated on the internet. In it, they contend that “Gilbert made it very clear that her priority is basketball over academics.”
They go on to say that Gilbert consistently tried to get players to change their schedules and/or majors so as not to interfere with practice. Several players were asked to drop classes for practice, even though those classes were graduation required. When they refused, they were accused of not being team players or only “concerned about academics.”
The more serious allegations said Gilbert and the athletic trainers dissuaded players from seeing a doctor, and told them not to report any COVID symptoms if they felt sick.
Mental health became a major issue, according to the email. Gilbert’s constant emotional abuse became “so toxic and draining that players have made comments in the locker room about having suicidal thoughts as well as purposely injuring themselves…”
Regardless, Gilbert keeps her job, while Shears and the entire team entered the transfer portal after the season was canceled. Two withdrew their names, but for all intents and purposes, Gilbert will have an entirely new squad in the fall.
Bonitta Best is sports editor at The Triangle Tribune in Durham.
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