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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hawaii coach kicked her, player says

By Michael Tsai and Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writers

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Jim Bolla.

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A University of Hawai'i women's basketball player alleges that head coach Jim Bolla kicked her during a practice this season and confirmed that it was she who reported the incident to the UH athletic department, spurring the second formal investigation into allegations of abuse by Bolla in less than a year.

The player declined to describe the circumstances surrounding the incident but when asked if she felt the contact was inappropriate enough to warrant a complaint she responded affirmatively. She said she and other players have been advised by the department not to comment because the investigation is on-going.

The player's account of the incident was corroborated by others, a person with knowledge of the team said.

Amid the current claims, reports have surfaced about past allegations of abuse involving Bolla at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Bolla, who is on an indefinite paid leave of absence, could not be reached for comment and has not returned previous calls from The Advertiser seeking comment.

"There has been no change in his status as of (yesterday)," UH Manoa spokesman Gregg Takayama said, although he did foresee a change in the next few days. Associate coach Pat Charity has been running the team since Feb. 13. The Rainbow Wahine are 6-20 with three regular season games remaining plus the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

Bolla reportedly has been seeking legal representation in the event UH decides to terminate a contract that has two seasons remaining after this one at an estimated $120,000 per season.

The UH athletic department last year conducted an investigation into allegations of verbal abuse and other mistreatment raised by current and former players. One of the players alleged that Bolla repeatedly mocked her for being a lesbian she said she is heterosexual and once told her that she was "too fat" to ever play for him.

Under university policy, the findings of that investigation have not been disclosed.

However, a former player, who said she was among the complainants said, "I got a letter from the university saying everything I said was found to be true and they were dealing with it."

Sources said Bolla received a warning from the school. In addition, they say Bolla was counseled regarding his behavior and that a mediated discussion between him and the current team was recommended.

Two former players, one at UH and another at Nevada-Las Vegas, where Bolla coached before coming to UH, said he was abusive and made "inappropriate" remarks to players.

Bolla was 300-120 in 14 years at UNLV and took the Rebels to seven NCAA tournaments.

He resigned as UNLV coach in 1996, saying "he had taken the program as far as he could" while also citing health concerns. He was reassigned within the athletic department.

Reaction to his resignation at UNLV was mixed.

"I love him to death. It's a shame I can't finish my four years with him as coach," Loriessa Randle told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a 1996 article.

"He's such a good person and an excellent coach," she said. "Those are the reasons I came to play for him."

But senior guard Desiree Weimann told the Review-Journal she left the team, alleging, "physical and mental abuse."

The Review-Journal reported that Bolla had become "increasingly frustrated over his relationship with his players" and that "Bolla has been the center of controversy at UNLV, including two episodes where he admittedly struck or grabbed players during the 1992-'93 season."

The Review-Journal reported in a December 1992 article that "two sources confirmed a television report" that Bolla "struck a player during a practice." The player was identified as forward Tracy Titus.

The Review-Journal reported Bolla admitted that in April 1993 "he sought therapy to help him in his dealing with his players and in coping with a divorce."

Titus, who played at UNLV in 1991-'95, told The Advertiser yesterday that Bolla was angered with her in practice and was twice ordered to run at him in a drill, whereupon she was struck. Titus said Bolla later "apologized" to her but maintained in a statement to the UNLV athletic director that Titus had "run into his hand."

She said Bolla told her "if you'd sleep in your own bed more often you wouldn't be tired at practice." Titus said Bolla told her, "how would you like my size 14 (shoe) up your (bleep)?"

Titus said she saw Bolla grab another player "around the neck" during a game at UH that season. A coach at UH that year claimed not to have witnessed the alleged episode but recalled being told about an incident "by some of our boosters."

Titus told The Advertiser she was willing to discuss her experiences with Bolla at UNLV because "my hope is that he will not be working in positions where he is able to do this to any more women."

Mark Eidson and Leila Wai contributed to this report.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com and Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.