A former Maine basketball coach said he’s embarrassed and ashamed about his conduct after his profanity-laced tirade against a student at his Florida school was posted online this week.
Mike Woodbury, in a telephone interview Friday with the Press Herald, said he doesn’t believe the edited three-minute audio posted on YouTube tells the complete story of his interaction and relationship with a former player, Marvens Petion, at his school, The Nation Christian Academy in Port St. Lucie.
But he also said there is “never an excuse to talk to anyone like that.
“I have to be better than that,” Woodbury said. “I have to grow as a person maturation wise. I wish it didn’t happen the way it happened, but I’m humbled by it.”
Woodbury also said he had “found the Lord” Friday morning, although he later said he didn’t know how to do so and needed help.
In the leaked audio, which quickly spread online this week, Woodbury repeatedly talks down to his former player in derogatory terms and even appears to threaten him.
“I control transcripts. I control where you go next,” he says in the audio. “It could be back to Haiti, (expletive). That’s how easy it is for me. Listen. I’m the one thing that you don’t want to cross. I’m the dirtiest, baddest (expletive) in this program.”
It is unclear who recorded the conversation, but Woodbury has been universally condemned since the audio emerged Tuesday on YouTube. Several former players from Maine have come forward to say Woodbury had been inappropriate and abusive toward them, too.
A native of Waterville, Woodbury ran basketball club programs in Maine for nearly two decades, gaining a reputation as a volatile coach. Players continued to play for him primarily because it was understood he could help his top players get college scholarships.
Alex Furness of Wells played on Woodbury’s teams for four years before playing at Bentley University.
“I was well aware of how insane he was, but I’m not going to deny that he was the primary reason I ended up with a full scholarship,” Furness said. “I do have a level of appreciation of what he did for me.”
Emily Rousseau, who played at Biddeford High School followed by the University of Maine and Stonehill College, was on Woodbury’s Maine Elite team in the spring of her sophomore year of high school.
“I knew this day would come,” Rousseau, 29, told the Press Herald. “I honestly just thought it would come years ago.”
“He several times referred to us as sperm banks. Yep, when we were 15,” she continued. “If he wanted us to go into a game he would pull our ponytail and drag us to the scorer’s table. We had an African-American girl on our team, and he said if she didn’t start playing better there would be a hate crime.”
Asked to respond to such allegations raised by former players, Woodbury was contrite.
“I apologize from my heart,” he said. “I’ve been humbled. To hear (those stories) only stacks on to the fact how broken and embarrassed I am.”
Rousseau isn’t buying Woodbury’s apologies.
“He’s trying to give a few superficial apologies (thinking) it will blow over in time, and I can see why he would think that because many times in the past that’s what happened,” she said Friday. “And I can tell you that there are many, many other people who also do not accept his apologies and I can tell you it’s just fake.”
Before Friday, Woodbury had not responded to multiple messages from the Press Herald. He did, however, conduct a video interview with TC Palm, a news outlet in Florida. In that interview, he acknowledged his behavior but also seemed to defend it.
“Yes, I’m pretty vulgar,” he told TC Palm. “The F-word is common in my vocabulary. That doesn’t mean it makes it right. It is who I am. I don’t hide from who I am. I coach the way I coach. I lead the way I lead. I lead from the bottom up, meaning I take apart negatives and turn them into positives and sometimes I can be abrasive.”
In his interview with the Press Herald, Woodbury also said that despite his past conduct he has “had impacts on thousands of kids’ lives in a positive manner.”
The Nation Christian Academy was formerly called Barnabas Christian Academy, which started in the late 1990s and expanded from grades 6-12 to being a K-12 school, offering fine arts and a modest athletic program. Woodbury said the school has 350 students.
According to the school’s website, it was “rebranded” in 2018 as the Nation Christian Academy to “align with our athletic partner and vision to broaden the scope of our school through our boarding and international program.”
Part of that boarding included players living in Woodbury’s house. Petion was one of them.
Woodbury referred to Petion as someone who “hasn’t walked the most glorious path,” and said he is an adult.
Woodbury also said that the audio that was posted online was edited and “made it sound like I’m a worse person that I am.”
He also said it was clear Petion and the two other students who were there were baiting him and he fell for it.
Still, Woodbury said he doesn’t think the last few days will hurt his school, although he said he knows he needs to change.
“The bottom line is: I have a Christian school and we weren’t following Christianity,” he said. “I met today with some students and we prayed together. I don’t know how to find the Lord, I’m a business guy. I need someone to show me the way.”
The audio has led one former Maine athlete to decide to leave The Nation Christian Academy. Former George Stevens Academy basketball star Taylor Schildroth was on Nation Christian’s post-graduate roster, but on Wednesday he announced on Twitter his intent to leave the school.
“The things said on this video are terrible and completely against what I believe in. Because of this incident I have decided to return home to find a place better suited for my academic and athletic goals,” Schildroth tweeted.
At least two athletic governing bodies in Florida have severed ties this week with The Nation Christian Academy — The Sunshine Interscholastic Athletic Association, an independent league of private schools, and The Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.