The former head coach of Georgia Tech’s women’s basketball team is responding to the release of an internal report that led to her termination from the program after 16 years.
In a confidential letter shared with 11Alive, Joseph denies that she mistreated or verbally abused players.
“My coaching style, while tough at times, is neither extreme nor abusive. I set high standards for myself, my players and my staff,” Joseph wrote in the letter, addressed to Georgia Tech’s athletic director Todd Stansbury. “Though players over the years may have occasionally expressed frustration with my tone or methods, no one in my 16 years as Head Coach has ever accused me of being abusive.”
The school’s athletic department fired Joseph Tuesday, after an independent probe into the basketball program. The final report stated that every student-athlete on the 2018-19 team reported “concerns regarding alleged emotional or mental mistreatment” and described the environment as “toxic,” “suffocating” and “unhealthy.”
Joseph issued a statement after the announcement of her firing, thanking the community for “unwavering support and friendship.”
- Georgia Tech fires women's basketball coach after independent investigation findings
- The most troubling takeaways from the MaChelle Joseph investigation at Georgia Tech
- Three assistants, one staffer fired after MaChelle Joseph probe
In her letter to Stansbury, Joseph expressed doubt about the report, completed by what she called an “inexperienced lawyer.”
She also claimed the investigation into her conduct was “in direct response to my escalating complaints of discrimination and retaliation.” She noted that she has pointed out disparities between the women’s and men’s basketball program that resulted in “unequal treatment and opportunity” for the women’s team and expressed concerns about “significant” differences in assistant coach salaries, funding for marketing and fixing up the women’s locker room.
“Instead of engaging me in a good faith discussion … the Athletic Department leadership has attempted to silence me.”
Joseph noted that her lawyer contacted Georgia Tech about her concerns about discrimination and retaliation for voicing her complaints in an effort to “resolve the escalating hostility toward me.” She said they never received a response to her letter, which prompted her to submit a formal internal complaint on Feb. 9, 2019.
She said in the letter that, after the complaint was filed, “GT then embarked on an effort to interfere with my relationship with my players and set the stage for my eventual termination.” She claimed that her “best” players were selected for random drug testing and that her sophomore players were no longer allowed to live in off-campus housing, which caused a wave of negative reaction in her players.
When she was notified that Georgia Tech concluded its investigation, Joseph claimed that she was given less than 24 hours to respond.
The Georgia Tech report included conduct identified by assistant coaches as unacceptable behavior in a coaching setting.
(1) throwing things at or hitting a player;
(2) making someone feel demeaned;
(3) personalizing criticism of a player or making criticisms regarding things that have nothing to do with basketball;
(4) telling a player that she is "f***ing stupid" or "f***ing dumb";
(5) excessive and continuous use of profanity specifically directed at a player;
(6) disrespecting or humiliating a player; and
(7) repeatedly calling a student athlete a "bi***" and/or "pu***."
Several players indicated that Joseph caused them to feel insecure, nervous or anxious – some said they lost the love of the game altogether.
One player even indicated that she felt “anxious” just by virtue of smelling Coach Joseph’s perfume.
In Joseph’s letter, she denied ever calling players “dumb” or a “b----” and denied other instances that appeared to be bullying. She attached several text message examples between her and players as “exhibits” to show she was a dedicated coach who cared about her players.
She concluded the letter with the following formal statement:
"I am a tough and demanding coach, but I am not the monster the Report makes me out to be. While I demand commitment and accountability, I have never, and would never, subject my players to verbal or emotional abuse. All of my actions over the years have been motivated by my desire to see my players excel and to develop as players and as people. My coaching style is not unusual or unlike my peers, both male and female, at the highest levels of collegiate sports. The sad truth is that institutions often hold female coaches to a different standard than male coaches, and those female coaches who dare to resist are punished for their efforts. That is exactly what has happened here.
"If Georgia Tech had been interested in actually determining whether I mistreated players or staff, it would have hired an experienced investigator, included me in the process, and allowed me an opportunity to respond to specific allegations and provide relevant information. Instead, GT has tossed aside my nearly two decades of hard work and success, kept me in the dark about the allegations brought against me, and made sure to humiliate me in the most public manner possible. When viewed against the backdrop of the retaliation that preceded this inquiry, it is that the Report was not meant to uncover the truth, but rather to cynically exploit the complaint of a disgruntled player and then cherry-pick facts and witnesses that would supply the Institute the justification it needed to terminate my employment and end, once and for all, my efforts to shine a spotlight on the inequities that continue to infect GT athletics.
"The Institute’s efforts will not withstand scrutiny."
Stansbury has denied Joseph’s allegations that her firing was the result of gender and equality discrimination, stating Monday that it was “absolutely not true.”