AnnMarie Gilbert to remain UDM women's basketball coach; school submits report to NCAA

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

After a nearly three-month university investigation into allegations of verbal and mental abuse by players and parents, AnnMarie Gilbert will remain head women's basketball coach at Detroit Mercy, the school announced Thursday.

Gilbert was in her first season as coach when the university canceled the rest of the season in mid-January, after parents of the players sent a letter to athletic director Robert Vowels, university president Dr. Antoine Garibaldi and three NCAA officials, making the claims against Gilbert.

The letter claimed Gilbert inflicted "emotional, mental and physical abuse" on the players.

AnnMarie Gilbert

“Coach AnnMarie Gilbert will continue as its head coach,” a statement from Detroit Mercy read Thursday. “The university has implemented additional measures to ensure that the women’s basketball program operates consistently within the core values and mission of Detroit Mercy and the bylaws of the NCAA.

"The university is submitting its report to the NCAA.”

Detroit Mercy said it commissioned an independent audit of the allegations.

Requests to interview Gilbert and Vowels were declined by an athletic department spokesperson. Neither Gilbert nor Vowels has spoken publicly since the January shutdown, outside of statements by Vowels.

The Titans were 1-13 and 1-9 in Horizon League play when the university shut down the remainder of the season, following the letter from the parents. The week of the shutdown, players met with Vowels and offered to play out the rest of the season if Gilbert didn't remain as head coach, but the players were told that wasn't an option. All players supported the letter being sent, multiple players previously told The News, and the sent letter was said to have been signed by at least one parent of all 14 players.

One parent, however, later said the letter was sent without their knowledge and consent. Gunny Corcoran, mother of sophomore guard Annika Corcoran, told The News "... was never asked for my opinion and I was never asked to sign anything," even though her name was on the letter sent to Vowels and other officials.

Corcoran has since transferred to Akron, and eight other Detroit Mercy players entered the transfer portal following the season shutdown. That includes the team's top five scorers from this past season, including junior guard Kaela Webb (17.7 points), whose father Tim remains an assistant coach on staff and was not among the parents who signed the letter. Shakela Webb, Kaela's mother, did sign the letter. Others in the portal include sophomore guard Markyia McCormick, sophomore guard Sylare Starks, sophomore forward Bridgid Fox, senior guard Aly Reiff, junior forward Maxine Moore, sophomore guard/forward Sammiyah Hoskin and freshman guard Maddie Puletti.

Moore and Reiff have since withdrawn their names from the transfer portal, with Reiff's father, Stan, telling The News in February, "She will not play at UDM if Coach Gilbert is allowed to return."

Gilbert was hired in April 2020, succeeding Bernard Scott, let go after five seasons as head coach. In a press release announcing her hiring, Gilbert said, "I look forward to building a winning culture, instilling a spirit of excellence and restoring pride in Titan women's basketball."

Among the allegations by Detroit Mercy parents and players: That Gilbert pressured players to play despite ailments, including COVID-19 symptoms.

"Coward's limp, losers limp," Gilbert has said to players, according to the letter from the parents.

Gilbert had 18 years of head coaching experience before Detroit Mercy, including a decorated run at Division II Virginia Union, which she coached for five years, won 28 games four times and went to a national championship game. 

Gilbert sat out three seasons before Virginia Union, after allegations of exceeding practice time — among the allegations by Detroit Mercy parents — landed her Eastern Michigan program on probation, facing four major NCAA violations.

During her coaching break, she earned a master's in sports management from Cleveland State.

She was head coach for five seasons at Eastern Michigan, including three 20-win seasons. Before that, she coached eight seasons at Division III Oberlin College, where she played basketball, ran track and is in the school's athletics Hall of Fame.

Between her stops at Oberlin and Eastern Michigan, Gilbert spent five seasons on staff at Michigan State, as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Michigan State made the NCAA Tournament all five years she was there, including a national championship game appearance in 2005.

Gilbert's current contract terms, years and dollars, aren't publicly available, because Detroit Mercy is a private institution.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984