Syracuse women's basketball coach Hillsman faces allegations of emotional abuse, inappropriate behavior

A story posted Tuesday in 'The Athletic' alleges unwelcome touching, threats, and bullying from head coach Quentin Hillsman, according to interviews with former players and staff members.

Posted: Jun 30, 2021 12:35 AM

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Syracuse University women's basketball head coach Quentin Hillsman is under fire after a blistering report in The Athletic, Tuesday, alleging that inappropriate conduct from the bench boss is what has lead to an exodus of players through the transfer portal.

According to the article, which cites inteviews with nine former players and 19 others, including team managers and staff members, Hillsman has often engaged in inappropriate behavior including unwanted physical contact, threats and bullying with his players and staff.

Some major allegations from the story include:

  • Threatening players using vulgar language. Despite players believing he wouldn't actually physically harm them, he would say things like "I'll f--- you guys up. I'll f--- you up. It's gonna be your ass if you f--- this up."
  • During the 2019-20 season. Hillsman went around to each player saying "I don't give a f--- about you," before flipping a table in the locker room during halftime of a game.
  • One player alleges that Hillsman came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, placing his hands near her pelvic region before playing it off as a joke. Two others witnessed this incident.
  • Three women accused Hillsman of kissing them on the forehead after discussions about playing time.
  • Players were uncomfortable with the presence of Ronnie Enoch, a long-time friend of Hillsman, who he allegedly created a staff position for in 2019. Enoch had been dismissed from a previous coaching job after sexual harassment claims were made against him. Enoch has allegedly made inappropriate comments while at Syracuse as well, such as asking one woman if she was menstruating.
  • Two players described being refused water by Hillsman after running sprints as punishment, even preventing another staff member from providing water to a player that was "literally gasping."

Following the posting of the article, NEWSChannel 2 reached out to Syracuse University officials for comment, and received a statement from Sarah Scalese, the University's Senior Associate VP of Communications:

"The allegations reported in 'The Athletic' today are troubling. Based on the nature of these allegations, Syracuse University is engaging an outside firm to conduct an independent review and will take appropriate action based on its outcome. While no formal complaints have been made to date from members of the women's basketball program, we take these allegations very seriously. We ask any individual who has knowledge of or has experienced this kind of conduct to come forward. Syracuse University remains focused on the well-being and success of our student-athletes."

After this past season ended in March, 11 players left the program through the transfer portal, raising questions regarding the status of the program.

Since 2018, 20 players have exited the program, which is the most of any school in a Power 5 conference that has not undergone a coaching change in that time.

On June 16, prior to this report, Syracuse University Athletic Director John Wildhack voiced his backing of Coach Q despite the high number of exits from the program.

"I totally support him," Wildhack said at the time. "I support the values that he has for this program. I support the standards that he holds everyone to."

After the release of The Athletic's report, Wildhack issued a new statement:

"Syracuse athletics remains committed to providing a healthy, academically rigorous, competitive, and rewarding environment to all our student-athletes. Any behavior – from our student-athletes, coaches, and staff – that contradicts our commitment to these ideals is investigated thoroughly, and if necessary, appropriate action is taken."

Some former players have come to Hillsman's defense in light of the report.

Tiana Mangakahia, who just finished a four-year career at SU, missing one season due to a fight with Breast Cancer, suggested these allegations were motivated by disgruntled former players to destroy Hillsman's reputation.

She also called some former teammates' character into question insinuating some treated her poorly following her Cancer diagnosis in 2019.

Alexis Peterson, who shined at 'Cuse from 2013-17, was even more direct in her comments and has subsequently made her Twitter account private following backlash.

"These Syracuse players have honestly lost their minds," said Peterson in a Tweet. "Transfer and move on peacfully. But this is a mans (sic) family and career y'all are playing with. I'm not here for it. Y'all need to grow the hell up. #SaidWhatISaid"

Hillsman has been the head coach at Syracuse since 2006, following one year as an assistant. He lead the Orange to the National Championship game in 2016, where they fell to UConn.

No timetable has been set for the independent investigation into the matter.

NEWSChannel 2 will remain on the story as it continues to develop.

For the full article regarding these allegations from 'The Athletic,' click here

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