I'm a Christian that happens to be a coach. ... My values are very important to me. ... I'm very blessed to have my staff here. This is something very unique, I think, for Division I women's basketball to have a staff that the entire staff is married with kids. Family is important to us and we live it every day.
Longtime friends of Outsports Helen Carroll and Pat Griffin see a message that may not foster an atmosphere welcoming to lesbian players and staff members. As Pat Griffin told USA Today:
When the coach leads with a description of herself as a Christian and boasts at her first press conference about how straight her assistant coaches are, you have to wonder about what kind of team climate she will promote for student-athletes who are not Christian or who are not heterosexual.
I certainly understand where Pat and Helen are coming from on this. They've seen how destructive religious-based atmospheres on women's basketball teams can be to some players, namely what Penn State did to Jen Harris and others.
But I'm not convinced we should criticize a new head coach for describing herself this way. I'm no fan of bringing religion onto teams, but I have to ask myself how I'd feel if instead of a Christian she described herself as gay. Or a single mom. Or an atheist. I wouldn't have a problem with any of those. So until I see or hear that she's created an atmosphere that keeps players in the closet, I have to withhold judgment on her. In fact, based on an anonymous comment left on the school's student newspaper Web site, I have to believe she isn't that kind of person:
The comment is from "Jane Doe," who identified herself as one of Pingeton's former players at St. Ambrose University, in Davenport, Iowa, and "openly in a same-sex relationship with my partner of nearly six years with a son," before defending the coach. "She develops a family atmosphere with her players and teams," Doe wrote. "As a player, she NEVER pushed her personal religious beliefs upon myself and I never witnessed it being done to any other teammate. We were not subject to Bible studies. Just because someone mentions they are CHRISTIAN doesn't mean they hate gays."
Maybe the message is a plant by someone close to Pingeton, but I think we have to give the new coach the same benefit of the doubt we'd want given to an openly lesbian coach who might be accused of building a "lesbian program."