Sports

Former players defend Holy Cross women's basketball coach accused of abusive tactics

In this Nov. 4, 2010 photo, Holy Cross women's basketball coach Bill Gibbons outlines a play for his team during practice at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. Former Holy Cross player Ashley Cooper, 20, filed a lawsuit in New York Tuesday, Oct.  15, 2013, against the school, Gibbons, and school officials claiming Gibbons was "verbally, emotionally and physically abusive."   (AP Photo/The Telegram & Gazette, Steve Lanava)

In this Nov. 4, 2010 photo, Holy Cross women's basketball coach Bill Gibbons outlines a play for his team during practice at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. Former Holy Cross player Ashley Cooper, 20, filed a lawsuit in New York Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, against the school, Gibbons, and school officials claiming Gibbons was "verbally, emotionally and physically abusive." (AP Photo/The Telegram & Gazette, Steve Lanava)  (The Associated Press)

Former Holy Cross women's basketball players are coming forward to defend longtime coach Bill Gibbons, who has been accused in a lawsuit by a former player of physical and emotional abuse.

More than 50 ex-players, managers and coaches have signed a letter supporting Gibbons. The letter refers to Gibbons as a "father figure" who always taught them to do the right thing.

Gibbons stepped aside this week while the school looks into allegations by former player Ashley Cooper that Gibbons grabbed her, shook her and struck her at different times. Cooper sued, saying she was forced to give up a full scholarship due to fear of physical pain and retaliation for complaining about Gibbons.

The support letter says Gibbons emphasized sportsmanship and taught his players to become "our best selves."