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WORCESTER - Holy Cross women's basketball coach Bill Gibbons, who had been on a paid administrative leave since Oct. 17, the day after a former player brought a civil lawsuit against him, returned to his position Tuesday.
"After a thorough review, the college has concluded that there is no reason for Coach Gibbons' continued absence from the team," Holy Cross spokeswoman Ellen Ryder said. "The college believes the lawsuit's allegations have no legal merit. Over a 29-year span, Coach Gibbons has amassed an impressive track record. That's why so many players, parents and alumni support him and the college's women's basketball program. We are focused now on completing the season and the academic year as a team and a community."
Gibbons will be on the bench for Holy Cross' game against Patriot League rival Army at 7 tonight at the Hart Center.
"I am thrilled to be resuming my role at Holy Cross," Gibbons said in a statement. "I am excited to get back on the court, and to work alongside our stellar student-athletes and coaches to focus on the rest of the basketball season. While I feel confident that I will be fully vindicated, I cannot comment on the allegations in the lawsuit that has been filed against the College and me."
On Oct. 16, former Holy Cross guard Ashley Cooper filed a civil lawsuit against Gibbons, alleging he physically and verbally abused her. Gibbons stepped aside from his coaching duties while a review was undertaken of the allegations made in the lawsuit.
Cooper's lawsuit, originally filed in New York State Supreme Court, was removed in November to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where it remains pending.
Cooper's lawyer, Elizabeth Eilender, had no comment on Gibbons' reinstatement.
"The lawsuit is proceeding," she said. "We plan to make a motion to remand the case back to state court. We believe it was improperly removed to federal court. The judge has set up a briefing schedule for that motion and the case is proceeding."
Cooper was enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross from September 2011 to May 2013 and played two seasons for the Crusaders.
During Gibbons' absence, associate head coach Ann McInerney guided the Crusaders to a record of 11-4 (3-1 Patriot League).
In wake of the lawsuit, more than 60 former Holy Cross women's basketball players and assistant coaches signed a letter in support of Gibbons. A group of about 40 basketball alumnae filled a section of the Hart Center bleachers at the team's 2013-14 opener and waved signs that said, "We Stand United for Coach Gibbons."
Parents of current team members and members of the Worcester Area College Basketball Association also voiced their support for Gibbons.
Gibbons has the most victories in Holy Cross women's basketball program history, with a career record of 533-315.
He has led the Crusaders to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. Holy Cross advanced to the Patriot League Tournament final each of the last two seasons.
Contact Jennifer Toland at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JenTandG.