Campus, News

BU women’s basketball coach faces bullying allegations

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.

Former Boston University women’s basketball players have come forward and alleged that their coach, Kelly Greenberg, has emotionally abused them. MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO
Former Boston University women’s basketball players have come forward and alleged that their coach, Kelly Greenberg, has emotionally abused them. MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO

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. 



    Director Lynch treated the wrestling program very poorly That program has the highest grad rate in the department, awards for sportsmanship, a class act of a coach, and a winning record. When you foster an environment that favors money at the expense of ethics… and you are abusive to players and programs that you do not like, this is what you are going to get.

    As an alumni, this is deeply embarrassing. It is also completely predictable given that the Athletic department fostered this environment. There is just no way that this number of young adults can be lying about something like this this many times over such a long length of time. Lynch enabled this, and he is as responsible as the coach herself. I’d be more concerned about why a kid felt they needed to tape the coach during a meeting, and the vast number of complaints, than I would be about a winning record. There must have been an exponentially higher number of complaints internally that he simply ignored. He covered this up for years. He probably encouraged it on some level. It is disgraceful that the school has allowed the athletic department to pit student athletes against each other. The University now has decades of student athlete alumni that distrust the school immensely- and for very good reasons.

    This unethical record must not be allowed to stand. It is time for BU to clean house.

    Howard Carter, Class of 1989


    Is this legacy we want? Does anyone reading this think this is good for our school? The fact that this was allowed to fester to the point that it is now national press, especially given that these allegations have gone on for years- with no results or accountability- is just plain incompetent!

  3. There are over 150 people with stories that show the coach as an extremely compassionate and caring person. BU would be wise to get the complete story

    • Balance- on this page 8 current players also attack the whistleblowers in an open letter of ‘support’, labeling the over a dozen teammates who have come out publically as ‘lazy’ and ‘not having family values’… not exactly the climate I would post as a ringing endorsement for what this coach has created.

  4. Who takes 4 years of abuse…. not getting playing time is not abuse. Honestly, how do u expect to be an athlete with an eating disorder, and depression, Geesh, u need a doc. Not a coach to make you feel better. Outsidehulz Graduate from BU? Don’t think so, so Lych wasn’t lying, was he.
    I admit compared to other places in the US, Boston is a cold place, but being able to deal with It is what make majority of us BOSTON STRONG, I just feel sorry for when these women experience real life challenges Ouside of college.