Mike Brown, cocaptain of George Washington's basketball team, said yesterday most of the players could not understand why junior guard Troy Webster was suspended following the Colonials' embarrassing 64-40 loss to St. Joseph's at Smith Center last Thursday.
Webster and freshman guard Joe Dooley, who raced off the court and out of the gymnasium just as he was about to be replaced in the second half of the game, were suspended for one game by Coach Gerry Gimelstob. Both sat out the Rhode Island game Saturday (won by GW, 84-75), but will be in uniform for Thursday night's game at Penn State.
Gimelstob said yesterday he suspended the players for conduct detrimental to the team.
Webster said the "issue was over" and refused to comment.
But several players who asked not to be identified said Webster was suspended because of comments he made to Gimelstob in the locker room following the St. Joseph's game. Several players said they were surprised when Webster was given the same punishment as Dooley.
Gimelstob refused to discuss the postgame incident with Webster.
In addition, the team held a meeting after the St. Joseph's defeat, with none of the coaches present.
"We had that meeting because we were coming off our worst defeat and we wanted to clear up any problems," said Brown, a senior who is considered one of the best big men in the country. "We want to try to regroup and get back on track for our remaining games. We're a very close team and we think we can finish out the season on a strong note."
The Colonials, picked by some to challenge for the Atlantic 10 conference championship, have been inconsistent all season and are currently in fourth place with a 7-5 conference mark. Overall, they are 12-9. Except for Brown (18.0 points, 11.3 rebounds) and Joe Wassel (12.5 points), none of the players is averaging more than eight points per game.
Interviews with seven players indicated unhappiness among some of them at Gimelstob playing favorites, showing a lack of confidence in others and puzzling substitution patterns.
Gimelstob, who did not discuss the specific complaints, said he didn't believe there was a morale problem on the team, but understood why there might be some frustration on the part of his players.
"We meet and discuss team problems all the time and no one has indicated any problems to me," said Gimelstob, in his fourth season. "Sometimes, morale is dictated by wins and losses. Against Rutgers (GW won, 96-77), morale couldn't have been higher. I know players get frustrated when the season isn't going the way they might have expected, or with their individual contributions. We have about three weeks left and they just have to push it.
"The St. Joseph's loss was our first conference loss at home in 11 games and we didn't play well. I don't plan to change anything. I'll coach the same way I did in the Rutgers game."
Said one player: "It wasn't fair to give Troy and Joe the same punishment. What Joe did was an embarrassment to the team, the coach and the university and we told him (Dooley) that. Troy just stood up for what he believes."
Gimelstob, 33, is considered a tough disciplinarian who strives for perfection. He also is aggressive and has worked hard trying to make GW's basketball program competitive with the best Division I teams in the country. However, some players have had difficulty coping with the pressure Gimelstob has put on himself and on them.
"We've gotten to the point when we hear the buzzer, regardless of what you've done on the court, you turn toward the bench because you think you're coming out," another player said. "That's why Dooley bolted the way he did."
Dooley explained after the incident that he ran off the court out of frustration at his play and regretted his action.
GW Athletic Director Steve Bilsky said the team is "a little frustrated," but added the problems are correctable.
"Whatever kinds of problems they have, they should work on them together," Bilsky said. "Basketball is a long season. The coaches can be demanding and the players have to remain competitive. This problem isn't unique to GW. This is the sort of problem a lot of teams have during a season."