LOUDONVILLE — Three weeks and a day after stepping away from the Siena women’s basketball program when the college opened an investigation into allegations he’d made racially insensitive and misogynistic comments to his players, head coach Jim Jabir returned to the gym Friday, expressing regret for his use of language and looking to move forward from the controversy.
Jabir was reinstated Friday when athletic director John D’Argenio asked the head coach — who is in the second season of his second stint coaching the Saints — to resume his duties following the conclusion of the investigation, which was conducted by Siena’s Title IX/Equal Opportunity Office.
Jabir spoke at the end of Friday’s practice at UHY Center, addressing reporters for the first time since news of the investigation was reported on Dec. 29.
In his opening statement, Jabir expressed contrition for his comments, which he said came in the form of “a joke” while speaking to three players in September.
“I made an inappropriate comment in a joke to three of our kids,” Jabir said. “I immediately was aware that it was offensive. I immediately apologized with great sincerity. They accepted my apology immediately, and this whole thing was over months ago. I’ve made some statements about the whole incident. I regret my joke. It was insensitive. And, you know, three weeks later, I’m back, and hopefully a wiser person for it.”
Jabir, who is 60 years old, said he also reiterated his apology when he returned to the team on Friday.
Siena’s investigation into the comments was launched the day after an email from the mother of former player Simone Walker, whose departure from the program was announced on Dec. 28, was sent to Jabir, D’Argenio and Siena president Chris Gibson.
D’Argenio said the investigation was immediately referred to the Title IX/Equal Opportunity Office, which is independent of the athletic department.
“The appropriate people were spoken to,” D’Argenio said, noting that members of the team staff, coaching staff and players were spoken to, though he did not know which specific individuals. “Here we are, three weeks later, we’ve come to the resolution of it, as now I’m asking coach [Jabir] to come back, coach his team and coach his players.”
D’Argenio said that the decision was finalized in the 24 hours prior to Friday morning’s announcement, and followed the recommendations of the Title IX/Equal Opportunity Office. He siad that those recommendations included, “four or five things we’re going to do, which I’m not going to get into.”
On Dec. 28, Jabir said that Walker and Rylee Carpenter, both walk-ons and Shenendehowa High School graduates, had left the team.
Jabir said Friday that he had not spoken to either Walker or Carpenter since the complaint was made.
In his Dec. 28 remarks, Jabir said that both players’ departures were on “All good terms, nothing going on,” and he reiterated Friday that remained his view of the situation.
When asked by a reporter about allegations from Walker’s father that Jabir had kicked her off the team, the head coach pushed back.
“The truth is in the statements that I made,” Jabir said. “She called me, she was having a hard time getting the words together, and I said, ‘Are you telling me you’re trying to quit?’”
After being briefly cut off by a Siena spokesman, Jabir continued, “The bottom line is, no, I didn’t ask her to leave. That’s not true.”
Neither Walker nor Carpenter responded Friday to messages seeking comment.
Jabir said waiting for the outcome of the investigation was, “really hard on me and my family.”
“I kind of felt like with what I had said, I had apologized and worked it out,” Jabir said. “But, I wasn’t sure one way or the other. I didn’t know, and it was scary.”
Sophomore team captains Anajah Brown and Valencia Fontenelle-Posson said that they accepted Jabir’s apologies both in September and when he addressed the team again Friday, and were excited to move forward with their head coach back in the fold.
“Coach Jim and I had conversations,” Brown said. “We can have these difficult conversations. It was addressed. Like I said, we can only move forward. We’re glad to have him back.”
“I accepted it a long time ago when we had the conversation,” Fontenelle-Posson said. “And I still accept it now, and accept coach.”
While Jabir was away from the program, assistant coach Terry Primm served as Siena’s acting head coach. Under Primm, the Saints went 6-1, most recently recording a 55-51 overtime win Thursday night against Fairfield, a game Siena started with just six players available due to injury.
Siena, which sits at 12-6 overall and 6-2 in MAAC play, returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday with a home game against conference leader Iona.
“I brought all these guys together, and this is the culmination of all that work,” Jabir said. “I was happy that they were winning [while I was away], because I love them, and I was proud of them. It’s just difficult to sit home. … It’s hard not going into work every day, and I couldn’t talk to the kids.”
Jabir said he’s committed to choosing his words more carefully moving forward.
“What I’ve learned is that our society has really changed,” he said. “I’ve got to be really careful with how I say things, because different people perceive things differently. And I’ve got to be very sensitive to who I’m talking to and what I’m saying, because nothing I ever said was meant to be offensive to anybody. I mean, I love my team, but unfortunately some of the things I joked about were taken in a way I didn’t mean. So, I’ve got to become more aware of what I say and how it sounds, and how people I’m talking to are going to take it.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Shinder.