Boston University women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg is facing accusations of severe bullying, including the dismissal of eating disorders and depression, from former team members.
Former BU women’s basketball players Melissa Gallo and Dana Theobald, who prematurely left the team during the 2013-14 season, have reported receiving personal abuse from Greenberg and other members of the BU women’s basketball staff during their tenures as players. Katie Poppe and Dionna Joynes also allege bullying, according to a Boston Globe story published March 8.
Theobald, who left the team as a sophomore for emotional health issues such as depression and an eating disorder, said Greenberg’s abuse on and off the basketball court exacerbated her struggles.
“It was October 15, 2013, when I went to my coach’s office to explain that I was requesting a leave of absence,” Theobald said in an interview with The Daily Free Press. “I explained yet again that I was really struggling with an eating disorder and depression and anxiety and that it was only being triggered through this program. All she had to say was, ‘you look horrible out there, absolutely horrible.’”
Although Theobald had confided to Greenberg that she was seeing Student Health Services for her eating disorder, she said Greenberg offered no support and did not see the issue as a coach’s responsibility.
“She told me there’s no excuse, no reason for me to have this [eating disorder] or be struggling with this,” Theobald said. “My parents had a meeting with her and asked her how she couldn’t care about her players struggling with things off the court, and she said, ‘I have dealt with many players who struggle with eating disorders. Some of them do OK with it. Some of them don’t do OK with it. Either way, it’s not my problem.’”
As a result of Theobald’s and other former players’ accusations of abuse, Greenberg has hired attorney Paul V. Kelly to represent her as she continues to face allegations.
“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 role model to student-athletes throughout her 24-year coaching career,” Kelly said in a statement. “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.”
Several BU women’s basketball alumnae have jumped to Greenberg’s defense after receiving word of the accusations. Kristen Sims, who played on the team from 2009 to 2013, told The Daily Free Press she did not observe any evidence of bullying from Greenberg during her time on the team.
“It is absolutely not true,” Sims said. “From someone who was on the team for four years, I never saw any examples of bullying. Obviously as a coach she’s going to be tough on you and have high expectations for you, but to say she’s a bully — I just find 100 percent false. It’s shocking that people would say these things about someone who has given everything to us.”
Sims said Greenberg not only encouraged her to improve as a basketball player, but also fostered her and her teammates’ growth as human beings.
“She was a role model,” she said. “… She helped me achieve things that I never thought I would be able to do. Because of her, I got to play for one of the top teams in the country. She helped my team share so many successes with each other and taught me the values of family and friendship.”
Despite defenses such as these, Theobald said Greenberg favored players who exhibited exemplary playing performances during games and practices.
“There was definitely a division in the team between who received her harsh treatment and who didn’t receive it,” Theobald said. “If you were not her top player who contributed to the team on the court, you would definitely deal with her treatment. She would criticize you and put you through her harsh treatment outside of basketball … If you didn’t contribute to the team on the court, you weren’t a part of the team.”
Sims, who graduated in 2013, started all 30 games for the Terriers as a senior, playing and average 26.8 minutes per contest. The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 7.4 points per contest to go along with 3.7 rebounds. Theobald appeared in eight games, with one point, one block and one assist combined in those appearances.
Melissa Gallo, who played on the team from 2010 until 2014, told The Daily Free Press that Greenberg attacked her for her physical appearance as well as her emotional issues throughout her four years as a player.
“My coach would say, ‘you need to grow up, you’re the most selfish person on the team,’ all this negativity that had nothing to do with basketball,” Gallo said. “… I told her I was speaking to someone in Student Health [Services] … She told me I was high maintenance for having depression. She attacked me on a personal level, saying things like, ‘definitely change your hair, I hate that low bun,’ or, ‘you look sick and should put on some makeup’… She abused her powers.”
In her senior campaign, Gallo appeared in 25 games, making nine starts and averaging 18.7 minutes per game. At the time of her departure on March 1, Gallo had put up 6.2 points per game, posting a .335 field goal percentage and a .319 3-point field goal percentage.
In response to these allegations, BU has assembled a team of officials responsible for investigating the BU women’s basketball program under Greenberg, which consists of Athletic Training Director of Programs Sara Brown, Associate Provost Elizabeth Loizeaux and Associate of General Council Larry Elswit.
Greenberg faced similar accusations of bullying from former players Jacy Schulz and Brianne Ozimok in 2008, prompting BU to conduct an internal review of the program. Schulz and Ozimok never graduated from BU.
“[BU Athletic Director] Mike Lynch was supposed to take care of this and protect future players when this happened in 2008,” Gallo said. “… Instead of protecting our team, he hides and protects our coach… I know when Dana [Theobald] quit and he interviewed her and her parents, Mike Lynch told them, ‘I never heard of a bad experience from any graduated person from this team.’ That’s a complete lie, because in 2008, the same accusations were brought to light.”
Lynch and BU Athletics could not be reached for comment.
Gallo said overall, Greenberg had a negative impact on her college experience.
“She ruined my whole four years of college when it was supposed to be the time of my life,” Gallo said. “It’s supposed to be the good memories, and instead I’m walking away with a lot of really bad memories, a lot of upsetting times, feeling worthless. It’s unacceptable, and this needs to stop.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article indicated that Schulz and Ozimok had graduated from BU. Neither student-athlete graduated from BU. The article has been updated to reflect this.