Tech women’s basketball grad assistant fired in wake of MaChelle Joseph leave

MaChelle Joesph gestures as she speaks to Georgia Tech guard Antonia Peresson (55) against the Notre Dame, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Atlanta. Peresson played in 134 games and started 56 for Joseph and the Yellow Jackets.

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MaChelle Joesph gestures as she speaks to Georgia Tech guard Antonia Peresson (55) against the Notre Dame, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Atlanta. Peresson played in 134 games and started 56 for Joseph and the Yellow Jackets.

A Georgia Tech women’s basketball graduate assistant said she was fired by the school on Friday for not following instructions to the staff to not have private conversations with team members in the wake of coach MaChelle Joseph being put on leave.

Antonia Peresson, who played for the Yellow Jackets for four seasons and graduated this past May with a degree in business administration, had been a graduate manager for the team since August. An athletic department spokesman confirmed that Peresson is no longer with the program.

“They told us that we could not have private conversations with student-athletes, and I did,” Peresson told the AJC Sunday. “I got in touch with a student-athlete because I was one of their teammates and I have that bond. They were like my little sisters. I have that bond. I was just worried about them because of this whole thing.”

Peresson attended the Jackets’ home game Sunday afternoon against Florida State, which was senior day. As a Tech player, Peresson played in 134 games and started 56. From Italy, Peresson was a two-time captain and named to the ACC’s academic honor roll three times.

“I came here (to the game) as a supporter for the team because I care about each one of them,” Peresson said. “They were like my little sisters. I played with most of them and, even with the freshmen, I really care about each one of them and love them and I was here to show them that I care about them.”

Joseph was put on leave by the athletic department on Wednesday for a "pending personnel matter." Assistant coach Mark Simons was appointed acting head coach in her place. On Thursday, an attorney for Joseph said in a statement that the coach had not been given a reason for being placed on leave and asserted that the school was retaliating against her for raising gender-equity issues in the athletic department."

Peresson declined to comment on the situation involving Joseph.

"I loved playing for Georgia Tech and for coach ‘Jo,’ ” Peresson said. “I had so many great memories playing for her and representing the university that I will bring with me forever. I’ve been a student-athlete here. I felt that I gave everything to this university and I just feel like it was really unfortunate that it finished like this.”

Tech lost to No. 22 Florida State 64-55. For the second consecutive game, starting guards Kierra Fletcher and Francesca Pan were not with the team for what has been termed personal reasons.

“They’ve been very positive,” Simons said of the team’s players. “They’ve bonded together as a team and that’s been really encouraging to me.”