A former coach of a Colorado girls' basketball traveling team is facing charges that he sexually assaulted a former player and is being held on $500,000 bail in an Upstate New York jail.
Rick Lopez, 36, had been coach of the Colorado Hoopsters, a successful club team that sent several players to top women's college basketball programs, before resigning in July. Days later, the family of one of Lopez's former players told investigators that Lopez sexually assaulted the player when she was a teenager, the Denver Post reported yesterday.
The Denver Post, first to report the arrest, also conducted an eight-month investigation of Lopez last year that found numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. Lopez had sexual contact with at least four of his players over several years, three of those players and one witness told the newspaper. Lopez has denied the allegations.
"We definitely are concerned there could be other victims," Lt. Tim Moore, a Douglas County (Colo.) Sheriff's Office spokesman, told the newspaper. "We're doing several other interviews."
News of the arrest rippled through the summer league girls' basketball coaching ranks.
"There is a definite crisis in coaching," said Mike Flynn, a Philadelphia-based girls' traveling team coach and analyst who has followed the sport for more than 30 years. The Lopez case "is part of that crisis."
While some see the Lopez case as more of an isolated incident, other well-documented examples have emerged in the past year. In December, the Portland Oregonian reported that a teenage girl accused a local basketball coach of initiating a year-long sexual relationship with her when she was 15. The girl also said the coach got her pregnant and paid for her abortion.
In December, the Seattle Times published a four-day series in which the newspaper identified 159 coaches who were reprimanded or fired for sexually abusing female athletes in Washington state. Ninety-eight continued to coach or teach after the incidents.
Michael Bozeman, a first-year Fordham women's basketball assistant and former director of the Nike Elite Summer League, learned of Lopez's arrest when he arrived at his office yesterday. Bozeman, who went 128-28 in five years as coach at Bishop McNamara High School, is concerned as a father of six daughters who range in age from 2 to 18.
Bozeman plans to speak to his daughters again at the appropriate time about the dangers of coaches who prey on players. "It scares me," Bozeman said. "I'm not raising my kids to be a victim."