A Wisconsin men's basketball staffer lost his job after using a racial slur.
Erik Helland, the longtime Badgers strength and conditioning coach whom Wisconsin said resigned Thursday, told ESPN he used the N-word while he retold a story from his time in the NBA, as he traveled on a bus with a group of Wisconsin student-athletes.
"I owned it," Helland said. "I said the word."
Helland's confirmation came during a turbulent stretch for the program, which has lost four of its past six games. Last week, junior guard Brad Davison was suspended for a game after appearing to make contact with an Iowa player's lower body. Davison had been accused of similar behavior in a game against Marquette last season.
Then, standout guard Kobe King announced his decision to transfer, writing on Instagram that Wisconsin was "not the right fit for me as a player or person."
Thursday's news followed a 70-52 road loss to rival Minnesota on Wednesday night.
"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 school said in a statement. "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."
Earlier reports said King, a redshirt sophomore, had been subjected to a racial slur by a Wisconsin staffer, an allegation the school denied when it released its statement about Helland's resignation earlier Thursday.
Helland said King was not on the bus when the racial slur was used. King had expressed concerns about Helland's treatment of minority players within the program to those close to him, according to a source. Helland said in a statement that he'd never done anything to "intentionally insult or hurt" a player.
"Multiple public reports have indicated that UW Athletics has been investigating the alleged use of racially insensitive language directed at one student-athlete," the school said in a statement. "That allegation is inaccurate. 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."
After he used the word, Helland said he took some time to reflect before he understood the damage attached to the use of "a repugnant word."
"I said, 'Oh my God, I'm such an idiot,'" said Helland, who joined the Badgers in 2013 after working with the Chicago Bulls. "I never denied it. ... I'm human, fallible. I made a mistake. This one cost me my job."