COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller was retained yesterday by athletic department officials after a lengthy review of charges from current players that she had verbally abused them.
However, in bringing Weller back for a 23rd season this fall, the school also announced that a sports psychologist would monitor the team's practices and games and provide input to the coach. In addition, athletic officials will monitor practices and occasionally travel with the team.
Weller also announced that a letter of reprimand had been placed in her personnel file, relating to comments she made to team members that were considered personal attacks.
Weller said the changes "will be good for the overall atmosphere" and pledged to get closer to her players, characterizing some of the differences between her and the team as "miscommunication."
"I'm very comfortable with myself as a person. I'm going to coach the way I coach. We'll still have our standards and get fired up about the challenge. They're good people and I think I'm a good person," Weller said.
Athletic director Debbie Yow said Weller had "humbled" herself in admitting she had made mistakes and was willing to grant the coach, who has won 432 games, eight Atlantic Coast Conference titles and reached three Final Fours, a "second chance."
"We're glad she's here. She's been successful. I happen to believe that she deserves and warrants a second opportunity," Yow said. "This is the right track, right thing to do. We're sorry it happened and we're hoping to put it behind us and move forward."
It's unclear whether the changes will be enough to keep some players from transferring. One player, who asked to remain anonymous, said, when contacted last night, that she and her teammates had not made decisions on whether they would remain with the program and had doubts about whether Weller would be receptive to making changes.
"If you really truly believe that something's happened, then anybody would be willing to change," the player said. "But if you don't, you'll make a change for that moment and not mean it in the long run."
Yow said yesterday that any player who requests a release from her scholarship to transfer will be granted one with no questions asked.
"We hope that won't happen. We want [the players] to stay," Yow said.
One parent, Greg Richie, the father of guard Kelley Gibson, was sharply critical of the decision.
"I'm disappointed. You have to respect the 22 years, but some of the things that have gone down over the years merit change and sometimes change is good. I don't think this speaks well for Maryland. It makes the kids seem like villains," Richie said.
After last month's ACC tournament, six players presented officials with a memo outlining complaints about Weller and members of her coaching staff.
Senior associate athletic director Danita DeHaney and Patricia Nicol, the department's senior women's administrator and supervisor of the women's basketball team, began meeting with the players individually and in groups and with Weller after the Terps lost to Purdue three weeks ago in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, their first appearance in four years. A player, who asked to remain unidentified, described some of the discussions as "emotional."
Nicol and DeHaney also met with departmental support personnel before making a recommendation to Yow this week. Yow, Nicol and DeHaney met first with players yesterday for 30 minutes to announce their decision, then Weller and Nicol met with the team for 40 minutes.
Though at least 22 players have transferred from the Maryland program since 1980, the current roster of players is the first to speak en masse against Weller.
"This was the first time that anybody has spoken up about all the crap that was being given out. I guess the previous generations felt like they made it through and it was up to anybody who came along to make it," an unidentified player said.
Yow said Weller's willingness to make changes in her program was chief in her decision to retain her.
"A portion of their complaints were warranted. It wasn't all miscommunication. There were some problems and she responded appropriately. This is basically a second chance. If Chris had taken a different approach or attitude, the outcome might have been different," said Yow, who said she consulted with university president William E. Kirwan.
Weller, who is believed to have 1 1/2 years left on her contract, said she got on the "wrong track" with the bulk of her current players in terms of developing a closeness with them that might have precluded their complaints.
She said does not consider herself a "lame-duck coach," and has received an oral commitment from a player and contacts from three people who are interested in filling the three assistant coaching slots that opened after the season. Yow said the players will have a role in selecting the new coaches.
A look at the conditions placed on Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller after the athletic department's review of the program:
A sports psychologist will monitor practices and games.
Athletic department officials will monitor practices and games and will periodically travel with the team.
L A letter of reprimand was placed in Weller's personnel file.
Pub Date: 4/05/97