College Basketball

University of Evansville fires head basketball coach Walter McCarty, hires Todd Lickliter

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WISH/AP) – The University of Evansville on Tuesday fired its basketball coach amid allegations of sexual misconduct and violations of the university’s Title IX policy.

Walter McCarty, 45, was placed on administrative leave Dec. 26 as the university asked a law firm to investigate the allegations.

The university said Tuesday in a news release, “Since then, the University has received additional reports of alleged misconduct by Mr. McCarty during his tenure at UE. Last year, the University had issued warnings to Mr. McCarty regarding inappropriate off-court behavior with members of our campus community. Mr. McCarty also participated in training concerning acceptable behavior under Title IX.

“While the investigation of potential Title IX violations will continue under University policies, UE has decided that, based on the facts uncovered thus far, it is necessary to terminate Mr. McCarty’s employment immediately.”

Todd Lickliter is the team’s new head coach. Lickliter is a former coach at Butler University and Marian University, both in Indianapolis, and the University of Iowa. Lickliter led Butler to a pair of Sweet 16 appearances.

He met with the team after 9 p.m. Tuesday evening and will be on the bench for Wednesday’s 6 p.m. home game against Drake, the Evansville Journal & Courier reported Tuesday night. Lickliter, 64, was an assistant on McCarty’s staff last season before he resigned during the summer to recover from serious medical problems he suffered in an accident. He has since returned to full health and recently attended the Aces’ game at IUPUI after Thanksgiving.

The University of Evansville earlier in the day had said Bennie Seltzer would continue to serve as the interim head men’s basketball coach until a new appointment is made.

McCarty became the Purple Aces head men’s basketball coach in March 2018. He came to Evansville after working from 2013-2018 on the staff of the Boston Celtics under head coach Brad Stevens, a former Butler University men’s basketball coach. From 2007-2010, he was an assistant under Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville and spent the 2010-11 campaign working on Jim O’Brien’s staff with the Indiana Pacers.

The Purple Aces stunned the college basketball world earlier this season when McCarty, a former star at Kentucky, led the team to a victory over the top-ranked Wildcats on their home floor.

McCarty finished his career at Evansville with a record of 20-25. He played in the NBA with the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers.

Statement

“It is with great disappointment that I am writing today to inform you of our decision to terminate the employment of Men’s Basketball Head Coach Walter McCarty, effective immediately, for behavior contrary to the core values of our University.

“On December 26, 2019, Mr. McCarty was placed on administrative leave after the University received reports of alleged sexual misconduct and violations of our Title IX policy.

“We retained a national law firm to conduct an external investigation. Since then, the University has received additional reports of alleged misconduct by Mr. McCarty. These reports came after the University had previously counseled Mr. McCarty about inappropriate conduct off the court.

“As part of the ongoing inquiry, investigators have gathered evidence and interviewed witnesses, including Mr. McCarty. The investigation has uncovered persistent and troublesome facts regarding Mr. McCarty’s conduct, including attempts to improperly influence witnesses in the investigation. While the Title IX investigation will continue as required under our policies and by federal law, it has become abundantly clear that Mr. McCarty’s behavior violated the terms of his contract making his continued employment untenable.

“Coach McCarty is an Evansville native who is well known in the community and has enjoyed success with our Men’s Basketball program. However, that success cannot supersede standards and values that guide the University. Our decision also reflects our commitment that there is no place at UE for any behavior by any University employee or student that jeopardizes the safety and security of others.

“As is required, the Title IX process will continue. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal financial assistance. Consistent with our commitment to Title IX, the University will complete the investigation and take steps, as appropriate, to prevent and remedy the effects of Mr. McCarty’s reported conduct. We do not intend to share details about these matters out of respect for the privacy of members of our campus community.

“Bennie Seltzer is doing an admirable job as interim head coach, and we are grateful that he and his assistants have stepped forward under difficult circumstances. We ask that you support our student-athletes during this time of transition.

“I also ask that you join me in supporting our students and employees who have come forward to share their experiences and concerns. We appreciate the trust they have placed in the University and our Title IX policies, and we reinforce the importance of reporting any sexual or gender-based concerns to the University’s Office of Institutional Equity.

“More than ever, I remain proud of this university and the values for which it stands.”

Letter to the University of Evansville community from President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz

MORE COLLEGE BASKETBALL STORIES

Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

MORE STORIES

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK