After being retained amid abuse allegations, Detroit Mercy cuts ties with AnnMarie Gilbert

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — AnnMarie Gilbert's time at Detroit Mercy is over.

The university announced Tuesday that Gilbert, who spent one controversy-filled season as head women's basketball coach, has departed the school. The decision was "HR personnel-related," according to athletic director Robert Vowels, and not related to student-athletes or the NCAA.

LaTanya Collins, who recently was promoted to recruiting coordinator, was named interim head coach and will coach the entire 2020-21 season, Vowels said.

Detroit Mercy women's basketball coach AnnMarie Gilbert broke her silence May 19, 2021.

"The University looks forward to providing her the support she needs to have a winning season," the university said in a statement Tuesday.

Gilbert was named head coach last offseason, but the 2020-21 season was cut short after the players' parents sent a letter to university administration alleging mental, verbal and physical abuse. Players asked to finish the season under a different coach, but Vowels said no and instead shut down the season in January, after 14 games (1-13 record).

The school then launched two months-long investigations, and determined there was no evidence of abuse and retained Gilbert as head coach in April.

Gilbert then told reporters from two Detroit newspapers last month she was "blindsided" by allegations.

"I just want to say, first, I care deeply about our student-athletes," she said last month. "I always have liked and admired these women. I have always talked positively about the opportunity I had to come here. ... I came to Detroit Mercy because I really believed in this university."

After the season was shut down, one Detroit Mercy player after another entered the transfer portal, with several finding new schools. Two players who entered the portal withdrew their names, with one, Maxine Moore, looking to return to the school. She was told no. Another, Aly Reiff, decided to end her college basketball career.

The Titans are poised to have a complete roster turnover for the 2021-22 season.

Gilbert came to Detroit Mercy after a successful run at Division II Virginia Union. She also previously coached at Eastern Michigan, and was an assistant coach at Michigan State. Exceeding practice time landed Eastern Michigan probation during her tenure there, and the NCAA handed down a two-year show-cause penalty. Practice-time issues also were among the allegations at Detroit Mercy, and were found true, leading to a lower-level NCAA violation which the university has self-reported.

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Among the other allegations by Detroit Mercy parents and players: that Gilbert stressed athletics over academics, and that Gilbert disregarded injuries (including concussions and COVID-19 symptoms) and encouraged players to play through the pain. "Coward's limp, loser's limp," Gilbert told players, according to a letter purportedly signed by parents of all 14 players on the roster that was sent to university administration as well as multiple NCAA officials in January. Gilbert denied saying that, and Vowels said there was no evidence injuries were ever disregarded.

At least one parent of each of the 14 players signed the letter that was sent to Vowels and Co., though one parent did later tell The News the letter was sent without her knowledge or consent. One parent who didn't sign was assistant coach Tim Webb, father of star player Kaela Webb, a former Detroit Country Day standout who has since transferred to Florida Gulf Coast. Webb was the assistant coach players asked to play for in their meeting with Vowels, and Webb is the lone assistant coach who remains listed on the team website.

Players met with Vowels, individually and as a group, after the letter was sent. They met with human resource officials and investigators after the season was shut down. In keeping Gilbert initially, Vowels said in April the school was taking "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," but he didn't provide any specifics.

Collins joined Gilbert's staff in June 2020 after several stints as a head coach. Those head-coaching jobs were at Hartford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland, Motlow State Community College in Smyrna, Tennessee, Saint Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina and Southern Vermont College in Bennington. She was also a high school head coach. Collins has been an assistant coach at Virginia Tech, Radford, Marist and Coppin State.

Gilbert, who could not be reached for comment, replaced Bernard Scott at Detroit Mercy.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984