Kentucky's mass exit: 6 players have left program since fall
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said there are various reasons why several players have left his program since last fall.
But he wonders if the disturbing trend of Wildcat exits could have been avoided by being more engaged with players and his assistant coaches, several of whom have also departed this spring.
Forward Batouly Camara on Monday became the sixth Wildcat to leave the program since October. Assistant coaches have also resigned, which means Mitchell will have an overhauled staff and a thin roster. Kentucky was 25-8 and reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the past seven seasons under Mitchell.
Despite the record, changes need to be made.
''The program does not look like we want it to look, and that's 100 percent on me,'' Mitchell said during a 47-minute news conference Wednesday that addressed the departures.
''It's been a three-year revolving door of staff, and that just creates tremendous upheaval.''
Camara, a freshman, was granted her release Monday after starting 14 of 33 games last season. Assistant coaches Tamika Williams-Jeter and Camryn Whitaker resigned this week, while the contract of fellow assistant Adeniyi Amadou was not renewed.
Linnae Harper, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, Ivana Jakubcova and Morgan Rich have also left the program. Oregon transfer Chrishae Rowe was dismissed before the season.
Lindsey Corsaro, a 6-foot All-America from Indianapolis, was released from her national letter of intent on Tuesday.
Mitchell said some of the players left for personal reasons.
Whatever the reasons, the departures of so many coaches and players have created a potential perception issue off-the-court, forcing Mitchell to publicly address the situation. He talked with players, parents and Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart and learned that staff instability seemed to be a common concern.
Mitchell said he understands.
''This is a tough time for (players), there's a lot of uncertainty with what's going and it's hard on the players,'' said the coach, who is 219-89 in nine seasons with the Wildcats. ''There is apprehension about how we move forward.''
Mitchell said he favored of some of his coaches returning after managing last season's urgency, but acknowledged he could have communicated that desire better.
The coach also said he could have been more in tune with all of his players' needs, instead focusing on the ones that had issues.
Mitchell hopes to have learned from his mistakes after one of the most tumultuous seasons he has ever endured.
''Where I have made the misstep is people think that I didn't care about them and wasn't here to serve them,'' he said. ''That's where I have to take a strong look at and see where I have to improve.''
Kentucky has filled one of its staff openings on Wednesday with the re-hiring of former assistant Kyra Elzy, who previously worked at the school from 2008-12. She had spent the four seasons as a Tennessee assistant and associate head coach.
The Wildcats have to fill the void created by yet another regular in Camara, who was expected to contribute even more this fall after a promising debut last season.
The 6-foot New York City native averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and tied for ninth-most by a UK freshman with 142 boards.
The Wildcats do return a solid nucleus in senior guard Makayla Epps, an Associated Press All-America honorable mention selection; sharpshooter Maci Morris; forwards Evelyn Akhator and Alexis Jennings; and center Alyssa Rice.
Mitchell still has highly regarded 6-foot wing Chanin Scott on board as a recruit.
That will give Kentucky eight players this summer, but Mitchell knows he'll need more bodies in search of its first Final Four bid. What's important now is to close the revolving door that has opened the program up to scrutiny.
Said Mitchell, ''We have the right people in place. I feel confident we'll get it done.''