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  • Dysfunction in Kentucky women's basketball

    By LARRY VAUGHT

    With all the recent turmoil that has hit the Kentucky women's basketball program, it reminded me of a conversation I had with assistant coach Camryn Whitaker before UK played Washington in the NCAA Tournament.

    She was a standout player at Harrison County High School and then Western Kentucky University. She joined the UK program just over a year ago and I wondered what a year with coach Matthew Mitchell had been like.

    "It has been great. He is so energetic. Our team really feeds off that and I know I do. I have learned so much from him. He knows how to win and that has been really exciting for me," said Whitaker.

    Winning next year, though, could be a lot, lot harder than what it has been because of both player and coach defections. As of today, Kentucky will have just eight scholarship players next season. That includes some top talent seniors Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps along with sophomore Maci Morris and Taylor Murray.

    Kentucky will have just one freshman -- Chanin Scott -- after Indianapolis standout Lindsay Corsaro, a McDonald's All-American, was released from her scholarship Tuesday. A few days earlier commit Madison Treece, the 30th ranked player nationally in the 2017 recruiting class, reopened her recruitment.

    Corsaro had agreed to an interview with me Monday night about her upcoming UK career but called it off because "UK coaches wanted her to wait until she got to campus." When news came that she was being released from her scholarship by UK Tuesday, I contacted her again via email to see if she would talk.

    "I'm sorry this has been very difficult and tonight probably is not good timing," she replied.

    That was a sentiment I totally understood. Her father told the Indianapolis Star that she was not ruling out UK but the uncertainty with the program made her decide to re-evaluate her options.

    Sophomore Batouly Camara did more than that. After starting 14 games last season, she has opted to transfer. Remember, she had picked UK over UConn and was a top 10 recruit in some rankings.

    Mitchell has also had one coach resign and another not rehired in the last few days. On Tuesday, Lexington Herald Leader beat reporter Jen Smith reported that former UK assistant Kyra Elzy would rejoin the team as associate head coach.

    Have questions? Who doesn't?

    Mitchell has scheduled a press conference for 1:30 p.m. today. No word on whether it is mainly to announce Elzy's return, but the coach has to know he'll get a ton of questions about his program and should. What answers will he give? I have no idea.

    Speculation has been rampant. Many have wondered if players cannot get along with Mitchell. That reminded me of a question I asked Morris during the NCAA Tournament about if her father's coaching/prodding had helped prepare her to play for Mitchell.

    "My dad has definitely prepared me for how coach Mitchell has got on to me sometimes. I was joking with some of the coaches one day because coach Mitchell got on to me pretty hard and they wanted to know if I was okay. I said, 'I am fine. This is nothing compared to how my dad will be,'" Morris said.
    So maybe today we will get an explanation about the dysfunction in a program that has continued to win or maybe we will still have as many questions after the press conference as we do now.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Dysfunction in Kentucky women's basketball started by Darrell KSR View original post
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. badrose's Avatar
      badrose -
      Reminds me of a comedian Tim Wilson's lyric, "divorced five times, hell, maybe it's you." No question that Mitchell can coach but could probably use a good look in the mirror.
    1. Jeeepcat's Avatar
      Jeeepcat -
      And now Whitaker is leaving a well
    1. KSRBEvans's Avatar
      KSRBEvans -
      It'll be interesting to see how Mitchell plays this today. "Nothing to see here, move along" isn't going to fly.
    1. Philly Cat's Avatar
      Philly Cat -
      He's crashing and burning on the radio. Sorry to say it, because I have always loved what he's done for UK Athletics.

      I have to guess he's really hurting over something, who knows what (personal/professional/some combination), but his performance today is similar to what Stoops does when he gets on the radio -- spouts platitudes and gives no real answers. Add a defensive tone into the mix, and it's not a good look.
    1. UKHistory's Avatar
      UKHistory -
      It is not a good look for coach Mitchell. Mitchell made a comment that it is sometimes harder to deal with success than climbing up.

      Does that mean he has allowed his ego to impact his behavior personal or professional? I don't know.

      But when you lose your staff and this many players we have a serious problem.

      The fact that Mitchell is so unwilling to speak about this in an open way is frustrating.

      Honestly he should not have done the interview if he was going to be that closed lip about things.
    1. Thedonnie123's Avatar
      Thedonnie123 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Philly Cat View Post
      He's crashing and burning on the radio. Sorry to say it, because I have always loved what he's done for UK Athletics.

      I have to guess he's really hurting over something, who knows what (personal/professional/some combination), but his performance today is similar to what Stoops does when he gets on the radio -- spouts platitudes and gives no real answers. Add a defensive tone into the mix, and it's not a good look.
      It was really bad. Someone said it in another thread, but if this was Cal, it would be national news, and his response is that all of this is just a coincidence.

      It was the kind of response that could fly 20 years ago. Nowadays, with the accessibility of the Internet and social media, fans are much more savvy and can better sniff out the BS coachspeak. This likely made it worse. At least it did in my eyes.

      Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
    1. KSRBEvans's Avatar
      KSRBEvans -
      Didn't get to hear it but from what I read on Twitter it was the equivalent of when Mark McGwire did the flop sweat thing in that Congressional hearing on steroids.

      The "I just want to move forward" thing doesn't work these days (if it ever did). You have to be transparent or go into the bunker.
    1. UKFlounder's Avatar
      UKFlounder -
      That is too bad. I like hm, but maybe his run here is over. Things don't sound good
    1. kybobcat's Avatar
      kybobcat -
      Mitch decided this guy was worth a million-dollar-per-year salary.

    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Very disappointed in what I am hearing, and hope it works out, somehow, someway, but this doesn't sound good.
    1. UKHistory's Avatar
      UKHistory -
      Quote Originally Posted by Darrell KSR View Post
      Very disappointed in what I am hearing, and hope it works out, somehow, someway, but this doesn't sound good.
      ETown shared a rumor, hypothetically speaking, last night. Are you hearing that rumor from other sources?

      If that is an accurate description of what took place, I would think coach Mitchell may need to leave. Based on Mitchell's interview today I am very concerned.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      No, I unintentionally misled with my post. My hearing should really have been reading. I haven't spoken to anyone. Obviously, I trust ET, even when it is a hypothetical rumor.

      Sorry, didn't mean to mislead.
    1. KeithKSR's Avatar
      KeithKSR -
      His presser, which is recounted in the H-L, must have gone much better. I got the impression he wasn't happy with the job some of the assistants were doing, and the overall direction of the program at present.

      Kyra Elzy is returning, which is a good start in turning things around.
    1. UKHistory's Avatar
      UKHistory -
      Better. But it was not very clear or specific as to why things have imploded.

      Can anyone imagine if Cal's staff resigned and players by the platoon transferred out. Remember some of these coaches don't have jobs lined up. One was not being renewed. Two just quit. Without a job. Sane adults don't do that unless there is a reason.

      ET's hypothetical may or may not be correct but if it is and UK is not doing anything about it, we have a serious problem in leadership.
    1. Padukacat's Avatar
      Padukacat -
      Matt Jones went very easy on him, could have roasted him. Probably best in case he stay, but yeah this interview sounds terrible and there is much more to this than him being a hard coach to deal with.