Kentucky's Mitchell won't renew contracts for two assistant coaches

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 4, 2014 

After Kentucky failed to advance to its fifth NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in six seasons, Coach Matthew Mitchell hinted that changes might be coming.

"It could have been a very different season and all of the failures of the season are mine and the successes are the players'," Mitchell said from the podium after the Cats were downed by Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen.

Less than a week later, Mitchell opted not to renew the contracts of two of his three assistant coaches: Shalon Pillow and Jeff House.

UK doesn't formally announce assistant coach departures, but when asked about them, team spokesman Susan Lax said simply: "He's making some changes on the staff."

The coach will begin looking for their replacements immediately, Lax said. Per university policy, the jobs already are posted on the school website with closing dates for late next week.

Pillow, who worked with the post players and has been on staff since 2009, said staff dynamics change.

"It's just part of the business," said Pillow, who was at the women's Final Four in Nashville looking for a new opportunity. "I'm grateful for my time at Kentucky."

Mitchell plans to help her find a new position, said Pillow, a former standout at Tennessee. "He said he'd help in any way he can and he's sincere about that.

"I'm grateful for my opportunity to be at Kentucky and for Coach Mitchell for giving me the opportunity to come there and be a part of such a great program."

Pillow's contract, worth $140,000 a year, was signed in July 2012 and expires June 30.

House had not even been in Lexington for a full year. He was hired on July 1 to replace longtime assistant coach Matt Insell, who left to become the head coach at Mississippi.

House, who most recently had been an assistant coach in the WNBA, signed a one-year deal with UK for $185,000 that is set to expire June 30.

The Cats' other assistant coach, Danielle Santos, who primarily works with the team's guards, will remain on staff.

Kentucky still hasn't hired anyone to replace Ukari Figgs, the team's director of basketball operations, who stepped down the first week of November.

UK, which finished the season 26-9, loses three starters but returns five McDonald's All-Americans and adds another in signee Alyssa Rice.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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