Winona State basketball coach Mike Leaf resigned suddenly and mysteriously on June 26, soon after a complaint about him was filed to the school. Today the player who filed the complaint tells the Winona Daily News that Leaf sexually assaulted him.
The alleged assault took place on June 20 at Leaf’s house; the player filed the complaint the next day. The player, accompanied by six of his teammates, told the paper that he had dropped by Leaf’s house to talk basketball, but ended up drinking with him. He said he felt pressured to drink, and against Leaf’s insistence, eventually tried to return to his apartment.
When the player arrived at his apartment, he was unable to find his keys, so he sat down against a wall and used his cellphone to message friends to let him in. He was tired, stressed about his encounter with Leaf, and intoxicated, and soon, he said, he passed out for a few minutes.
He awoke to find Leaf standing over him.
Leaf was angry. He swore, accused the player of being irresponsible for walking home. At one point he recalled Leaf saying, “I own you. Let’s go back to my house right now.”
The player hesitated. He didn’t want to return to Leaf’s house. But he wanted to take care of his coach. So he walked with Leaf home, holding Leaf up at times, he said.
The next thing the player remembered it was shortly after midnight and he woke up lying in Leaf’s bed, with Leaf breathing heavily in his ear. Leaf was touching his torso, his leg, his arm, and then began kissing his neck, the player said.
The player tried to rise from the bed, at which point Leaf held him and said, according to the player: “This isn’t what you think it is. You’re in my company. You’ll be fine.”
The player broke free, gathered his things, and tried to leave. Leaf approached him and suggested they should each punch each other. Leaf swung at him three times, and missed each time, the player said.
Then, the player said, Leaf began to cry.
“He said, ‘After all I’ve done for you and after all I’ve done for you guys.’” the player recalled. “He was calling us names. ‘I’ve done this for you, I’ve taken all of you in. This is how you treat me.’”
The player did not call police, but did tell his teammates. Meanwhile, Leaf texted the player, telling him at one point that he didn’t remember what had happened the previous night. The player blocked Leaf’s number from his phone.
One of the player’s teammates told an assistant coach, and a meeting was held with the player, his teammates, Winona State’s AD, assistant AD, and a WSU administrator. He filed his official complaint against Leaf at that meeting. Leaf resigned five days later.
The player says he is happy with how the university has treated his complaint. They arranged for counseling, and told him whatever he wanted to do with his academic and playing career, they would support. He chose to stay at the school and on the team.
He says he came forward to clarify the situation, which has been beset by rumors, but also for Leaf’s sake. “We wanted him to get help,” the player told the Daily News.