The resignation letters of two assistant coaches offer little insight into the turmoil within the Kentucky women’s basketball program the past few months.
In fact, the letters submitted by assistant coaches Tamika Williams-Jeter and Camryn Whitaker and acquired by the Herald-Leader via an open records request are friendly in nature.
Whitaker’s resignation letter, dated three days after Mitchell announced the assistant coach planned to seek other employment, thanked the head coach for offering her a chance to work at a place she loves.
“Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to assist during this transition phase,” wrote Whitaker, who when reached, declined to get into specifics about why she wanted to leave Kentucky. “I wish you and the staff the best of luck moving forward and hope to keep in touch.”
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Whitaker was named head coach at Northern Kentucky University last week.
Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to assist during this transition phase. I wish you and the staff the best of luck moving forward and hope to keep in touch.
Camryn Whitaker, in her UK resignation letter
In her letter dated April 25, Williams-Jeter called it a “blessing to continue to grow as a coach, help our players mature on and off the court, and work with an amazing support staff.”
Williams-Jeter went on to specifically thank UK’s president, athletic director and UK Athletics in general for allowing her to be part of the Big Blue Nation. Her letter closed with: “I would like to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.”
The coach did not respond to requests from the Herald-Leader for an interview.
There was no letter of resignation or termination involving the other Mitchell assistant, Adeniyi Amadou, UK officials said in response to an open records request.
His personnel file, released to the Herald-Leader, contains no admonishments or letters of reprimand to signal why UK decided not to renew the contract of Amadou after two seasons.
When asked if there was a larger scandal or issue involved in Amadou’s dismissal, Mitchell told the Herald-Leader at the end of April: “There’s nothing lurking, looming there with that.”
The head coach hinted that he and Amadou had different coaching philosophies.
“That was a parting of ways because I felt like it was best for us and best for me. I can’t spend that much time trying to convince him, ‘This is how I want you to approach (coaching),’” Mitchell said before adding: “It’s not just one thing.”
In an April 27 news conference, Mitchell said the staff had a great experience coaching the team overall, spending more than 200 hours collectively planning practices and other things, but there clearly were chemistry problems.
“We had a great time in those team rooms talking about basketball,” Mitchell said of the Cats’ 25-8 season that ended with UK falling in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. “The other behind the scenes (stuff) and them meshing together as a staff, that just didn’t work out.”
Williams-Jeter and Whitaker learned that former Tennessee assistant coach Kyra Elzy was going to be rehired to Mitchell’s staff and were given some time to decide: “Do I want to stay here and integrate?” Mitchell said.
“It’s been so much upheaval that they’re having to make decisions,” he continued, adding that he told Whitaker and Williams-Jeter that he wanted them to stay. “It’s so fatiguing that they’ve had to make decisions if they want to come or go.”
Since the departures of Williams-Jeter and Whitaker, UK has hired former Arizona head coach Niya Butts, who was on Mickie DeMoss’s first staff with Mitchell. UK also added former standout point guard Amber Smith in a support staff role last week.
After the rash of departures, which has included eight different assistant coaches in the past three seasons, Mitchell said he’s thought a lot about the need for continuity and chemistry.
The team deserves “a stable situation from a staff perspective and that’s my job to make sure that we have a staff that can stick together,” he said in April.
While most assistant coaches sign one-year deals, both Butts and Elzy signed two-year contracts, UK officials confirmed.
“Niya helps balance me out in a way that will positively impact our program,” Mitchell said in the release announcing her hiring. “I love the way our staff is starting to take shape and I am excited about our future.”
The third and final assistant coach opening has not been filled yet.