Matthew Mitchell just wrapped up his press conference about the state of the UK Hoops program, and while he was a little more forthcoming with information than he was during his interview on KSR this morning, the really interesting stuff happened off camera. Mitchell started his presser by thanking the players and their parents for their support.
“What I’ve particularly appreciated is the support of the parents,” Mitchell said. “I’ve spoken with every parent or close connection to those seven players and that response has given me tremendous confidence and strength and I’ve had unwavering, overwhelming support from that group of people and candid engagement from them and that is appreciated.”
Everybody but Anthony Epps, it seems. Upon seeing that quote on Larry Vaught’s Twitter feed, the former UK great and father of Makayla Epps spoke out.
When UK Hoops beat writer Jen Smith pointed out that Makayla’s parents aren’t together anymore, so Mitchell may have just spoken with her mother, Epps said he didn’t believe that gives Mitchell a pass, but that he still supports Mitchell and the program.
Makayla was present at the press conference, and Mitchell used her as an example of a player he’s given special attention to in the past few years because of her off-the-court issues. After the recent departures, Mitchell admitted to reporters he needs to give all of his players that kind of attention.
“I think one of the things for me that I have learned over the past couple of years is there’s no substitute for one-on-one communication. Makayla and I were talking about this. Makayla hit a rough spot there last year and we had to make some decisions on how she was going to turn her life — which way she was going to go. I was really frank and blunt with her that there was only one way I was going forward with her and that’s if she made some changes and got on a positive path.
That came in a time of year in May, June, July, when the demands of the season aren’t as great and she and I could spend a lot of time one-on-one. She talked about that with me, she said, ‘Coach, you know that’s powerful, that one-on-one time where we can just be there together.’ She said, ‘I’m 100% clear on where your heart is for me and I want you to know where my heart is for you.’ And that was a powerful time.
I think where I’ve erred over the years is sometimes the kids that are having trouble, my natural tendency is to pull them up and pull them along, so sometimes a kid’s that just doing great and coming in with a great attitude everyday and doing her job, that I have missed that. That they need what I gave to Makayla.”
More notes from the presser coming soon…