Ten San Jose State basketball players, accusing Coach Bill Berry of "mental cruelty," have refused to play or practice again as long as Berry is the coach.
But Athletic Director Randy Hoffman backed Berry Wednesday and said that although only 4 players remain, San Jose State will field a team in its scheduled game against Cal State Fullerton tonight at Titan Gym.
"Bill Berry is our men's basketball coach. He has my confidence and is the head coach," Hoffman said in a news conference Wednesday evening.
The group of players, including 4 starters, refused to practice Tuesday. The players met with Hoffman Wednesday morning, then called their own news conference in the afternoon, an hour after the team was to depart for Fullerton.
"We feel that we have been through enough mental cruelty and enough threats," senior guard Anthony Perry said in a telephone interview.
The players declined to elaborate or provide examples, but Perry said "3 or 4" players had sought psychiatric care as a result of Berry's actions.
"Since I've been here, he's snatched up a few players, not physically abused, but snatched them by their jerseys," Perry said. "It's just things that go on behind closed doors in practice. People see Berry as a jolly person and a great guy, but no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. . . . We felt it was time it came to an end. Until something is done, we refuse to play. . . . All we know is we think they should make a change."
Berry said he was "hurt" by the players' action.
Berry said he swears at the players and admitted that he had been asked by Hoffman to "mellow" this season.
"I felt I have done that," Berry said. "I do swear some, but I teach, and I teach effectively and well . . . I don't feel I was asking them to do anything I wouldn't do myself.
"I'm obviously disappointed in the decision by some of these players and the emotional reaction of these young men," Berry said. "But we plan to field a team and do it with dignity."
The team--minus the 10 boycotting players among whom are starters Perry, Steve Haney, Dietrich Waters and Rodney Scott--is scheduled to travel to Fullerton today.
The 4 remaining players have a combined average of 13 points a game, led by Jan Svoboda, a 6-foot 9-inch senior center who has started 12 of 16 games and is averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds a game. Dwain Daniels, a 6-4 junior guard, has started 3 games, and Tom Desiano, a 6-1 junior guard, has started 1. Kevin Logan, a 6-6 freshman forward, had been scheduled to be a red-shirt.
Athletic department officials Wednesday evening were seeking students to fill out the squad, focusing on athletes in other sports whose eligibility already is certified.
Berry said he would consider allowing the players to return if they change their minds.
"I would handle each case individually," he said. "If a player came to me and said he made a mistake, I would be willing to look him in the eye and say, 'OK.' "
The player walkout was thought Tuesday to be connected with the Spartans' struggles this season. They are 5-11 and have lost 5 consecutive games. San Jose State absorbed its worst loss of the season last month when it was routed by Stanford, 89-39.
But the players said Wednesday that the losses were not a factor in the walkout.
Berry, in his 10th season at the school, has a record of 142-132. The Spartans were 14-15 last season and were led by Berry's son Ricky, who averaged 24 points a game, leading the conference in scoring.