Wisconsin strength and conditioning coach resigns after use of racial epithet in front of basketball players

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Wisconsin guard Kobe King (23) drives on Purdue forward Aaron Wheeler (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Wisconsin guard Kobe King (23) said he was transferring last week. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Wisconsin said Thursday that strength and conditioning coach Erik Helland had resigned. Helland’s resignation comes a week after basketball player Kobe King said he was transferring.

While King didn’t say in his transfer announcement on Jan. 30 why he was transferring, reports emerged Wednesday that the school was investigating the use of a racial epithet in King’s presence.

According to Wisconsin’s statement, Helland, who is white, used the word in front of multiple players.

“UW Athletics administration was informed last weekend that Helland, while recounting a story from earlier in his NBA career, had used a racial epithet in the presence of multiple Wisconsin men’s basketball student-athletes,” the statement said. “UW Athletics confirmed that assertion on Sunday. UW Athletics works to promote a safe and welcoming environment for its student-athletes and staff and the aforementioned language used does not align with the values of the athletic department, men’s basketball program or the university.”

The school also said allegations that it was investigating the possibility that Helland directed the epithet at a specific Wisconsin player were incorrect. Helland was placed on administrative leave on Monday.

“That allegation is inaccurate,” the statement said. “UW Athletics has no evidence — nor has it been alleged to the athletic department — that Helland directed racially insensitive language toward any member of the men’s basketball team.”

King said in his transfer announcement that he realized that Wisconsin (13-10) was not the right fit for him. After he announced his decision to transfer, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said he was disappointed that King had decided to transfer during the middle of the season.

In an interview with the Wisconsin State-Journal after he said he was going to transfer, King said he talked to multiple teammates before making his decision public.

“I thought it was best for not only myself — but for (the team) — for me to step away from the program just because I knew my heart wouldn’t be into it again,” King said. “I hear people say I’m a quitter. I talked to five, six (teammates) before I even told the coaches I was thinking of doing this. These were my closest guys, and if one of them would have told me it felt like I was quitting (on them) by doing it right now, I never would have said anything.”

King was averaging 10 points and 28.5 minutes per game in the 19 games he had played. Only forward Nate Reuvers (13.8 points per game) is averaging more points per game.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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