US wheelchair basketball team hires new coach after players alleged emotional misconduct

Christina Schwab (shown competing at the 2016 Paralympics) is the new US women's wheelchair basketball coach
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The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) announced on Monday that Christina Schwab (nee Ripp) will take over as head coach of the 2022 U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team.

The appointment comes after multiple current and former members of the team spoke out after the NWBA initially re-hired Lawrence “Trooper” Johnson for the role. Four members of the U.S. team that won Paralympic bronze in Tokyo – Kaitlyn EatonAli IbanezJosie Aslakson, and Courtney Ryan – posted on social media alleging that Johnson has displayed “acts of emotional misconduct” during his tenure with the team.

“On the road to Tokyo, my teammates and I were quieted, demeaned, and manipulated into playing under fear-based leadership,” Aslakson wrote on Instagram. “I’ve had tough coaches but none that mistreated my peers and I to this degree– none that dismissed female voices and destroyed the confidence of competent and talented athletes.”

After players raised their concerns on social media, the NWBA announced on Friday that Johnson had resigned as head coach. As part of a statement issued through the NWBA, Johnson said he would cooperate with a U.S. Center for SafeSport investigation.

READ MORE: U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball coach resigns after players allege emotional misconduct

According to the NWBA press release, the organization’s high performance committee reevaluated the existing applicant pool after Johnson’s resignation.

Schwab, a five-time Paralympian and three-time gold medalist, made her debut at the 2000 Sydney Games, where she competed in track & field. She then represented Team USA in wheelchair basketball at two consecutive Paralympic Games, winning gold in both 2004 and 2008. The Wisconsin native transitioned back to the track for the 2012 London Paralympics, and then closed out her career as an athlete with a third gold medal in wheelchair basketball at the 2016 Rio Games.

Since 2016, Schwab has served as head coach of the women’s wheelchair basketball team at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. At this year’s Tokyo Paralympic Games, she also became the first woman to serve as an assistant coach of the U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team. The team went on to win gold.

“I am grateful, excited, and looking forward to the opportunity to once again be working with Team USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball,” Schwab said in the NWBA’s press release. “After achieving success through this program as an athlete, it is important for me to use this new role as a way to give back to the sport by serving and mentoring current and future high-performance athletes. I am determined to work my hardest alongside the NWBA High Performance Committee and my staff to continue to develop this highly successful program.”

If Schwab continues in the role through the 2024 Paris Games, she will became just the third woman to serve as head coach of the U.S. women’s team at a Paralympic Games. Since women’s wheelchair basketball debuted in 1968, only two women – Deb Sunderman (1996) and Stephanie Wheeler (2016) – have held the role.

After Johnson’s re-hiring was announced last week, Wheeler was among those who spoke out, resigning from her position on the NWBA’s Board of Directors.

“This most recent coaching hire and the NWBA’s silence in response to the allegations are born out of a systemic issue of gender discrimination within the NWBA, sport, and society at large,” she wrote on Instagram. “The NWBA has a long history of gender discrimination in its coaching ranks, most evidently at the national team level… Women, particularly disabled women, in our organization have been systemically pushed out of coaching at the highest level of our sport.”

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC