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The Boston Globe

Sports

Players, alumni rally for BU women’s basketball coach

BU women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg speaks to her team during a recent game.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

BU women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg speaks to her team during a recent game.

Nearly 30 demonstrators, including current and former student-athletes, rallied Saturday in support of Boston University women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg after four players alleged Greenberg emotionally abused them, causing them to quit the team.

Clutching placards that read “Coach Greenberg Cares’’ and “We Love Coach Greenberg,’’ the group gathered in front of Agganis Arena before the men’s basketball team played Army in the semifinals of the Patriot League tournament.

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The Globe published the complaints about Greenberg in a front-page story Saturday.

“We were shocked,’’ said Danielle Callahan, a senior guard who captained this year’s team with Rashidat Agboola and Whitney Turner. “It’s kind of a nightmare to hear such things said about someone you care very much about and who cares a lot about you.’’

Agboola and Turner also appeared on Greenberg’s behalf, as did members of previous teams during her 10-year tenure at BU. Many described her as tough but fair, with the best interests of her players at heart.

“She has pushed me to not just be a good basketball player, but a better person than I was when I got here,’’ said Turner, a senior forward.

A BU spokesman said Friday the school has launched an evaluation of Greenberg that will include taking “a very serious look’’ at the abuse allegations. Greenberg was the subject of similar allegations by two players at BU seven years ago.

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Greenberg, who is in the last year of her contract, has not responded to numerous interview requests. Several people close to her said BU has directed her not to speak publicly about the matter. A school spokesman would say only that Greenberg declined an opportunity to speak to the media.

BU officials also were asked before the Globe story was published to make available any players who would speak on Greenberg’s behalf. Numerous players complained Saturday that they had not been given the opportunity.

Riley said the school did not make the players available because it “wouldn’t be fair’’ to them to address allegations against a coach by other student-athletes. The Globe did report that Greenberg has positively influenced many players during her career.

Several of Greenberg’s former players portrayed the four women who left the team as too soft to withstand the rigors of a demanding Division 1 collegiate basketball program. In exchange for $60,000 annual scholarships, players are required to work year-round on athletics and academics.

“I think they didn’t realize how hard it was going to be and couldn’t handle it,’’ said Mo Moran, a captain of the 2012-13 team. “The fact that four girls are trying to bring down something the coach has worked so hard for is disgusting to me.’’

No one provided evidence that the four student-athletes who left the team fabricated their accounts. Those four players — senior Melissa Gallo and sophomores Dionna Joynes, Katie Poppe, and Dana Theobald— stood by their stories.

Joynes said she considered suicide and Theobald said she sought mental health care after Greenberg emotionally mistreated them. They walked away from the team and their lucrative scholarships in October.

Poppe and Gallo each said they were emotionally abused by Greenberg before they left the team in the final weeks of the season. They remain at BU.

Gallo described the criticism as predictable and “unfortunate.’’

“The facts are the facts,’’ Gallo said. “There’s no way to twist them.’’

The former players who spoke on Greenberg’s behalf included assistant coaches at the University of Chicago (Alex Young), UMass-Lowell (Jesyka Burks-Wiley and Kerry Cashman), and Wheelock (Amarachi Umez-Eronini).

“I have modeled the way I handle my players after the respect, hard work, and discipline that Coach Greenberg instilled in me,’’ Cashman said.

Greenberg has posted a record of 186-127 at BU, though she has failed to win a postseason conference tournament. The Terriers finished 13-20 this season, Greenberg’s worst at BU, after she went 47-15 the previous two years.

“Some girls go into Division 1 basketball thinking life is going to be great, but it’s very hard,’’ said Caroline Stewart, a captain of the 2011-12 team. “It’s very easy for players to say it’s not fair, but Coach Greenberg has been so successful that she must be doing something right.’’

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

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