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Rower’s family says abusive coach pushed athlete to suicide

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/sports-california-san-diego-rowing-4c37b38ebf1ce2d38e5dd673d3d25fa5

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — On New Year’s Day nearly two years ago, Parker Kinney spent the day with Brian Lilly Jr. at picturesque Scripps Beach in the San Diego area and realized his friend had become a shadow of his former self.

Kinney and Lilly walked on the sand for hours and went to dinner. At the end of the night before saying goodbye, they opened up about their shared struggles while rowing for the coach at the time at University of California-San Diego and how it had affected their well-being.

Yet Kinney couldn’t possibly fully grasp the depths of Lilly’s despair that afternoon: The 19-year-old college rower took his own life just three days later.

Kinney is convinced his friend had been pushed to the edge by verbal abuse from coach Geoff Bond. Lilly’s parents feel the same way.

“This guy basically squashed Brian’s self-esteem, his threat to push Brian off the team. And I don’t need to have a sports psychologist in here to tell me how damaging that was,” father Brian Lilly Sr. said.

Brenda and Brian Lilly Sr. have filed a wrongful-death suit against Bond and the school, alleging the coach mistreated their son largely because he challenged Bond’s decision to allow a rower to remain on the team despite allegations of sexual misconduct against the athlete. They are adamant their son was verbally abused by Bond, leading to his suicide in January 2021.

Kinney said he saw the abuse.

“I felt like they were trying to sweep the whole sexual assault allegations under the rug and a decent amount of kids had legitimate concerns about this, being like, ‘This is pretty messed up,’” Kinney said. “A lot of kids didn’t speak out about it. Brian did speak out about it, so Geoff retaliated against him. Brian’s main concern was that this would harm the integrity of the team, which I agreed with.”

The defense team for Bond, who coached at UC San Diego until last January, filed a motion to dismiss the Lillys’ case. The defense said Bond hadn’t seen Brian Lilly Jr. for the nine months prior to his death and that the coach reached out during the pandemic lockdown period to inquire whether Lilly would return to school in San Diego from the East Coast where he had been living.

Several of Bond’s former collegiate rowers from Cal, Penn and UCSD also reached out to The Associated Press in support of the coach.

“I absolutely loved his style of coaching and feel it is a great fit for young college kids,” Gary Champagne, who rowed for Bond at Cal as a freshman in 2002-03, said via email.

Lilly family attorney Nicholas Lewis said Brian Lilly Jr. remained involved with the rowing program from home by attending the regular team video calls.

UC San Diego declined to comment through a spokesman, citing pending litigation. The school offered no details when Bond departed as coach on Jan. 13.

The Lillys said they are determined to save others from the kind of treatment they say their son endured.

“My whole thing right now is to give my son a voice,” his father said. “He was the ultimate underdog. He was a hero.”

Lilly’s parents said their son never had a history of mental illness prior to rowing at UCSD.

Lewis said the teen briefly underwent in-patient treatment in July 2020 after experiencing what the attorney called psychotic and schizophrenic symptoms such as paranoia and disorganized thoughts before Lilly stabilized in a matter of days then continued outpatient therapy the rest of that year. Bond’s defense has argued the coach was never aware of Lilly’s emotional state.

The Lillys said their son overcame a great deal to even emerge as a collegiate rower. Formerly, their son had been “a chubby little fellow,” his father said, because of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that he eventually outgrew through hard work and the right diet. He ran the New York City Marathon and completed an Ironman triathlon in Lake Placid.

Brian Lilly Sr. recalled how his son pushed himself so hard during a rowing-machine session in February 2020 that he vomited multiple times and that Bond referred to throwing up as being a response of “sissies.”

Some rowers who competed for Bond at UC San Diego have shared similar experiences, describing a culture in which Bond used crass and offensive language among other put-downs regularly uttered in front of athletes.

Kinney said that in March 2020, Bond yelled at him on the water using inflammatory language because of Kinney’s friendship and support of Lilly.

“I was paralyzed with fear. I was 18,” Kinney said. “I called my dad. I was losing respect for the program.”

Kinney eventually quit the team and others also departed, with at least some of them sharing with each other that rowing for Bond had taken a toll on their mental health.

Now, Kinney dearly misses his friend and a sport he used to love: “I’m pretty numb to it myself at this point.”

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Source: https://apnews.com/article/sports-california-san-diego-rowing-4c37b38ebf1ce2d38e5dd673d3d25fa5

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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