Former U of M coach Stollings fired from Texas Tech for creating ‘climate of fear’

Photo courtesy of Twitter Marlene Stollings

Ex-Gopher says similar conditions existed here

Former Minnesota women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings (2015-18) posted an 82-47 overall record (38-30 Big Ten) and two NCAA appearances before leaving to take a similar job at Texas Tech in April 2018. Tech fired Stollings August 7, two days after a investigative report was released saying that she and her staff were alleged by players to have fostered a culture of “fear, anxiety and depression.”

Twelve players have left the program since Stollings’ hiring. Top assistant Nikita Lowry Dawkins, who held s similar position in Minnesota, was later fired as well.

According to former Gophers Jasmine Brunson and Taiye Bello in a published report last week, a similar culture also existed at Minnesota during Stollings’ reign. The two said they’d planned to transfer before the coach left Minnesota in April 2018. 

A former teammate of Brunson and Bello talked exclusively to the MSR last week on the condition of anonymity. “Jane” (not her real name) said, “All of the stuff [that happened to the Tech players] happened to us.”

Among the main claims the Texas Tech players alleged are:

  1. Coaches demanded that Tech players keep a heart rate of at least 90 percent of capacity by using a “torture mechanism,” as they called it, during play or else face tough conditioning at the next practice. Something similar was done at Minnesota, said Jane, adding that the players were told “it would open our airways” while playing. “I did it three times [before stopping],” she said. “It made me uncomfortable.”
  2. Some players often were ridiculed by coaches in front of the team. This also happened in Minnesota: “All the coaches were cool off the court, but on the court, it depended on their mood,” said Jane. “Every day it was somebody they picked on depending on how they were playing in practices or the games.”
  3. One Tech player displayed depression symptoms but was admonished by coaches. “I’m sure that half of the [Minnesota] players were depressed, but they didn’t go to the doctors,” recalled Jane. “A lot of players cried all the time in the locker room. I knew one of the girls had real bad anxiety, and they [the coaches] knew about that and they didn’t care.” 
  4. Five Tech players alleged that the strength and conditioning coach used a therapy technique that involved applying to the players’ chests, pubic bones and groins. The same coach also worked at Minnesota. Jane said she refused it but knew some players that did use the technique.

Jane recalled when once during practice a ball was accidentally thrown at Stollings during a drill. “She threw the ball back at the player because she thought it was thrown on purpose. It didn’t hit her, but [Stollings] tried to.”

Although she never intended to transfer, Jane noted, “I know a lot of players who wanted to leave.” It also bothered her that the Gopher coaches didn’t tailor their motivational methods to the individual player. “I never took it personally… Some people couldn’t take it,” said Jane. “It was no letting up.”

Jane said she and another Gopher teammate “worked to keep us together” as a team, and the players almost daily met and shared experiences. “It wasn’t the same for me, but I know it was happening to others while I was there.”

The climate definitely changed when Lindsay Whalen succeeded Stollings, Jane said. “It was easier.”

After she read the Texas Tech’s toxic climate report, “It didn’t surprise me,” Jane concluded. “Hopefully the Texas Tech players can get together and find that happy place.”

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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