Syracuse women’s hoops coach resigns amid bullying probe

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse women’s basketball coach Quentin Hillsman resigned Monday amid an external review of his program over his alleged threats and bullying of players.

Athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement Monday that both sides “agreed that parting ways is in the best interest” of the school, program and players. He said an interim coach will be named.

Hillsman, an excellent recruiter who built the program into a solid contender, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

Syracuse had 12 players enter the transfer portal after the season. Hillsman blamed their departure on attrition and COVID-19, among other issues. But then he was accused by former players and staff of threats, bullying and unwanted physical contact. The accusations were reported by The Athletic and prompted the university to hire a law firm to investigate.

Among those who departed were: Emily Engstler, who excelled off the bench and led the team in rebounding; starting guard and leading scorer Kiara Lewis; and Amaya Finklea-Guity and Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi. All are staying in the Atlantic Coast Conference — at Louisville, Clemson, Duke and Miami, respectively.

Hillsman, who had a record of 319-169 in 15 seasons at Syracuse, said those destinations validated his program.

“We have some seniors that have opportunity to pursue other options,” he said in April. “They’re going to schools in our conference. That’s a compliment to us. I’m good. If I had a problem, I would tell you. We’re fine.”

The last player to transfer was 6-foot-7 freshman center Kamilla Cardoso, the ACC defensive player of the year and its top rookie. She transferred to South Carolina and did not give a reason for her decision. The Brazilian was the highest-rated recruit in program history.

Hillsman also was accused of sexual harassment in 2010 by former player Lynnae Lampkins, who in her complaint to the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education accused Hillsman of inappropriate texting and touching. She said she left the team because she felt uncomfortable.

The school hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation that concluded there was “no substance to the allegations.”

Former star players Tiana Mangakahia and Alexis Peterson defended Hillsman on social media when the new allegations surfaced.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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