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Adelphi women's basketball coach Watts fired after incident with player

Adelphi women's basketball coach Kelley Watts was fired earlier this month for verbally abusing and grabbing a player during a halftime lecture, a person familiar with the situation said.

Watts was replaced by assistant coach Donna Lohrey.

The school announced Watts' removal in a Jan. 8 news release on its Web site but did not give a reason for her release. According to multiple sources, Watts screamed at a player, who has not been identified, and grabbed her in the locker room during halftime of Adelphi's home game against Southern New Hampshire Jan. 6.

"She got into someone's face a little too close," said the parent of an Adelphi player. "The mother of the player made a call, saying was over the top, and it was addressed." That scenario was confirmed by a person within the university.

Watts, 45, was removed before the team's next game, Jan. 9 at St. Anselm. Watts was in her eighth season. According to a university source, there were no other reported incidents during her tenure.

A university spokesman said Adelphi will not comment on Watts' dismissal. "It's a personnel matter and not something we can discuss," the spokesman said. Athletic director Robert Hartwell refused to comment. Watts' home phone and cell have been disconnected.

The Adelphi players were not made aware of the reason for Watts' removal. "It was something that happened very suddenly," said Rob Breidenbach of Northport, whose daughter Samantha is a freshman center. "[Samantha] said the athletic director came in and said [Watts] was no longer employed and that was it."

Watts, who grew up in Bay Shore and played for Rutgers, is in the Suffolk County Hall of Fame. She was 113-101 in seven-plus seasons at Adelphi. Adelphi was 2-10 under Watts this season and has gone 1-6 since her dismissal.

Fran Arato, who assisted Watts during the 2007-08 season, was dismayed at Watts' dismissal. "Kelley couldn't have been more caring about her players," he said. "I would find it hard to believe that she would react to a level that would force her from her position. She was always calm and controlled. Not that she wouldn't get loud or upset with the players, but nothing to that point."

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