University of Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell took additional measures Friday to try to pull his program out of what he termed “a state of confusion.”
Mitchell, who met with the media on April 27 to try to explain the upheaval in UK Hoops, tried a different approach Friday, when he posted a letter to fans on Twitter titled Matthew Mitchell: What I Have Learned.
Amid tremendous success on the court in recent seasons, including a 25-8 record in 2015-16, Mitchell’s Kentucky program has come unraveled off the floor by seven player departures and three assistant coaches leaving since the start of last season. Two top recruits also have pulled out in recent weeks.
Much as he did in his public comments in April, the UK coach placed the responsibility for the departures on his inability to hold together a coaching staff and communicate his vision. Mitchell has gone through eight assistants in the past three seasons.
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Feeling the heat of speculation about what singular event might have led to such an unusual mass exodus, Mitchell sought to calm those fears in Friday’s letter.
“Our players, their parents, our staff and our administration are determined to make this program better than ever,” Mitchell wrote. “We will not give in to negativity. We will not be discouraged by rumors of some scandal that does not exist. We will stay laser-focused on building our roster for 2016-17, diligently planning and organizing for a great summer of growth and communicating all of the positive realities that exist at Kentucky. I have never been more determined to get our program to the top. We will get there!”
We will not give in to negativity. We will not be discouraged by rumors of some scandal that does not exist. We will stay laser-focused on building our roster for 2016-17.
Mitchell’s letter opened by acknowledging “very, very difficult moments these past two weeks.
“Players transferring, recruits decommitting and a complete turnover of our coaching staff was not what I had hoped for nor expected at the end of the 2015-16 season. All of that happening put our remaining players, our remaining staff, the media and our loyal and devoted fans in a state of confusion.
“I have had to look in the mirror and ask myself an important question, ‘How did all of this happen?’ How could we have success in the classroom, in our community and on the court during the 2015-16 season and simultaneously have players and coaches wanting to leave at an alarming rate?
“While it’s impossible for me to know every detail, what I do know is this: Through all of the upheaval and all of the painful moments, I have learned lessons that will stay with me forever and will ultimately make me a much better coach.”
Mitchell went on to explain that his inability to communicate “what was in my head and in my heart to enough people to prevent something like this from happening” was to blame for many of the problems. “Good intentions are worthless if they are not communicated effectively.”
The first four player departures — Chrishae Rowe, Linnae Harper, Morgan Rich and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers — took place last October and November. A new round of exits began March 29 when Ivana Jakubcova said she was transferring. Suddenly, in April, came the departures of assistant coaches Adeniyi Amadou, Tamika Williams-Jeter and Camryn Whitaker. Next came the surprise departures of starters Batouly Camara and Alexis Jennings, 2016 signee Lindsey Corsaro requesting a release from her letter of intent and 2017 commitment Lindsey Duvall reopening her recruitment.
Since then, Mitchell has attempted to stabilize his staff with the rehiring of former assistant Kyra Elzy as associate head coach. He’s also bringing back former assistant Niya Butts and ex-UK point guard Amber Smith.
“I am grateful to the countless number of people in the Lexington community and around the country who have supported me during this difficult stretch,” Mitchell said in his letter. “I have received prayers, handwritten notes, phone calls, text messages, people just stopping me for a word of encouragement, you name it. I have had incredible support and I am so very thankful for that! During the most difficult times, those words of encouragement and the strength I gain from God have kept my vision clear.”
That support included a vote of confidence from UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.
“While I know I can and will improve, I also know that the foundation of this program is very strong,” Mitchell concluded.