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BU women’s basketball coach fighting allegations

BU women's head basketball coach Kelly Greenberg.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

BU women's head basketball coach Kelly Greenberg.

With Boston University investigating bullying complaints against her, women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg this week authorized a lawyer to defend her, and two more former players alleged she emotionally abused them.

The women bring to eight the number of Greenberg’s former players who have publicly complained she mistreated them. The allegations have prompted Greenberg’s allies to defend her as a kind and caring character-builder.

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“Based on the outpouring of support shown by current and former players, parents, collegiate coaches, and members of the Boston University community, it is apparent that Coach Greenberg has been a mentor and positive role model to student-athletes throughout her 24-year coaching career,’’ her lawyer, Paul Kelly, said. “She looks forward to the opportunity to fully address the issues raised in recent media reports as part of the review process initiated by the university.’’

Kelly’s statement is the first on the topic by Greenberg or an authorized spokesperson since two players — Jacy Schulz and Brianne Ozimok — alleged in 2008 that she mistreated them.

The Globe reported last week that four players — Melissa Gallo, Dionna Joynes, Katie Poppe, and Dana Theobald — quit this year’s team, alleging the coach emotionally abused them.

The two players who came forward this week —Nikki Tamanosky and Michal Epstein — were attending BU on full athletic scholarships, as were the others.

“I literally felt like she bullied me out of the program,’’ said Tamanosky, who left BU during the 2011-12 season. “I came to hate myself because of her.’’

Epstein, an Israeli who served in the military before she attended Providence College and BU, said she returned to Tel Aviv after Greenberg bullied her off the team in 2004. She said she “buried’’ the experience until she learned of the latest allegations.

“I hesitate to use the word ‘abuse’ because it’s such a harsh word, but my experience with the coach at BU was emotionally and verbally abusive,’’ said Epstein, who has played professionally in Israel since she left BU. “It really was that bad.’’

BU has appointed three officials to review the complaints: Sara Brown, a clinical associate professor and director of programs in athletic training; associate general counsel Larry Elswit; and Elizabeth Loizeaux, the associate provost for undergraduate affairs.

The panel has begun scheduling interviews and is expected to consider several school rules, including a ban on employees engaging in “harassing behavior of any kind.’’

The inquiry is expected to be completed relatively quickly, in part because the allegations have become national news. Universities typically waste little time addressing coaching controversies that could negatively impact recruiting.

“I imagine it would be hard for Greenberg to walk into a mother’s or father’s living room and recruit unless she is really cleared of this,’’ said Joshua Gordon, a sports marketing instructor at the University of Oregon who founded the Sports Conflict Institute.

The only reference in Greenberg’s official BU biography to her contract status states that she was “duly rewarded’’ for her success in 2008-09 (25-8 overall, 16-0 in conference) with a contract extension through 2014. However, her lawyer said BU last year gave Greenberg an extension through 2017. A BU official confirmed the extension.

Many of Greenberg’s supporters have described her accusers as too soft for big-time college basketball.

“You have kids who are unhappy because they were high school superstars and it didn’t translate for them at the Division 1 college level,’’ said Kristi Dini, who played for Greenberg from 2005-09.

Several Greenberg supporters also suggested the accusers were motivated by their own emotional problems, which drew a swift response from the school. BU spokesman Colin Riley said the university will take a hard line against unfair attacks on the alleged victims.

“No retribution will be tolerated,’’ he said.

Schulz, who alleged Greenberg emotionally abused her during the 2006-07 season, said, “My message to those who are attacking these young ladies by questioning their toughness and character is this: If you are going to judge someone, then judge me.’’

Schulz transferred from BU and received a Division 1 athletic scholarship at Niagara, where she posted a 4.24 grade point average. She is currently in medical school on a full scholarship.

“Tell me I was not tough enough to be a Division 1 student-athlete,’’ she said.

Tamanosky said Greenberg’s abuse ranged from criticizing her for not socializing enough with her teammates, to denigrating her as a player and person, to meddling so much in her personal life that she told Tamanosky she looked weak because of her fair complexion.

“You should go tanning,’’ Tamanosky said Greenberg repeatedly told her.

Finally, just months after she recruited her, Greenberg kicked her off the team, Tamanosky said, by telling her, “You’re a bad teammate and a bad representative of our program.’’

Tamanosky returned to her native Pennsylvania and plays for Division 2 Bloomsburg University.

In Epstein’s case, she said Greenberg turned on her after a poor performance in the opening game of the 2004 season. She said the coach assailed her as “useless,’’ “selfish,’’ and called her “all these things that had nothing to do with basketball.’’

According to Epstein, Greenberg told her, “This is my program. You walk like I tell you to walk, you talk like I tell you to talk, and you dress like I tell you to dress.’’

Greenberg forced her out, Epstein said, “and it was very hard for me to trust coaches after that.’’

The complaints by Greenberg’s alleged victims run counter to the experiences of her supporters. In a letter this week to BU general counsel’s office, 15 of Greenberg’s former players wrote, “She is a mentor, an idol, a woman who believed in us when others did not . . . Those who know her personally know she is in the game for all the right reasons.’’

Bob Hohler can be reached at hohler@globe.com.

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