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Barnhart still has Matthew Mitchell’s Back

Britney McIntosh | UK Athletics

Britney McIntosh | UK Athletics

Britney McIntosh | UK Athletics

To use Matthew Mitchell’s words, the initial “upheaval” surrounding the women’s basketball program seems to have come to a close (knock on wood).  Yesterday Mitchell had a chance to defend and explain the events surrounding his program.

The defections seem to have stopped as the program attempts to move forward.  The only person we hadn’t heard from yet is Mitchell’s boss, Mitch Barnhart.  Kyle Tucker of The C-J spoke to UK’s athletic director today about the fallout.  Barnhart’s best reasoning for why all of this has happened…

“I think sometimes, as you try and replicate things over and over and over — if you had something you really liked, and it changes, for instance the staff that he had four or five years ago, you say, ‘I really liked that,’ and you try to replicate it over and over and over. Sometimes, that style — it’s really hard to do. You get to a spot where you’re just chasing what you used to have. So being able to adjust is important, and you have to understand that you might not have exactly what you had before.

Barnhart never saw the situation as a fireable offense or a “this is the last straw” type of ordeal.  He described their close and candid relationship.

“I’ve talked to him. He’s not only my women’s basketball coach. He’s a friend. When friends are hurting, you’re going to make sure that you pay attention to them. And then the other piece of that: I’ve got a friendship, and then he’s my head women’s basketball coach, and I’ve got to make sure that I balance both those things out. I don’t want to get clouded by either view.”

For the entire Q&A click here.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

10 Comments for Barnhart still has Matthew Mitchell’s Back



  1. ronnie78
    6:49 pm April 28, 2016 Permalink

    I remember Joker Phillips was his good friend and didn’t fire him until the stadium was completely empty. An Athletics Director and a coach should maintain a professional distance so the AD can be objective about the situation. I’ve never seen so many players and coaches leave and it’s hard not to believe his friendship is again preventing him being objective. Your responsibility is to UK, not Matthew Mitchell.



    • inside info2
      10:38 pm April 28, 2016 Permalink

      I agree 100% that the AD should keep a distance with his employees. However, in Mitch’s defense (this is new to me), he wanted to fire Joker the year before he did. It was a MAJOR booster that told Mitch that if he fired Joker he would stop donating.



  2. Angelo
    7:00 pm April 28, 2016 Permalink

    UK has the best psychology department in America. Ask some of the professors to evaluate the hoops team.



    • UKPROF
      7:29 pm April 28, 2016 Permalink

      The “hoops team” is not the problem Angelo, it’s the head coach. And Mr. Barnhart could sure use a couple of private sessions. Then maybe, just maybe, we can help him to understand why he needs to ‘pull the plug’ before it is too late. We won’t mention Joker Phillips again will we?



  3. Bluebloodtoo
    7:06 pm April 28, 2016 Permalink

    I read the whole Q&A and didn’t get the impression that there was favoritism. Keep in mind that Barnhart has to think about the next guy he hires for all of his programs when dealing with the current guy. Friendship or not, you can’t just kick the current coach to the curb on his first mistake and expect that the next coach you hire isn’t going to wonder what will happen to him the first time he makes a mistake. No matter who you are managing, you have to think about the whole picture.

    Barnhart is also correct in that UK Hoops has, for the last 6-7 years, been one of the top 15-20 programs in the country. It’s not like MM is a failure or has a bad record in any other meaningful category.

    It’s also plausible to think that all these situations just happened to come to a head at the same time and have only a little bit of connection between them all. Is it statistically likely, probably not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.



    • Loother
      9:25 pm April 28, 2016 Permalink

      We may never know…



    • leetome
      7:50 am April 29, 2016 Permalink

      Granted they have had some success which begs the question why the top players want nothing to do with the program. It IS on of the best women’s coaching jobs around so I am sure MM will never leave on his own. I also find it funny he pines for his first three years — guess he forgets he was riding Demosses’ coattail of her recruits like Dunlap and Mathis. It appears at this point the only players that can put up with him are coaches kids (Morris And epps) and those that really can’t transfer because they only have a year left (ackator, Jennings and rice)….I hope Murray hangs around if she can put up with him. Guess we are stuck with Mean and Meaner 2.0 (Elzy and MM) for the near future.



  4. doobie brother
    9:53 pm April 28, 2016 Permalink

    I also like to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts or knowing what’s actually going on. After all, that’s why I use the “jump to conclusions mat”. It never makes me look like an @ss.



    • leetome
      8:21 am April 29, 2016 Permalink

      It is really all one is left to do without any facts, other than everyone is leaving. It seems Barnhart is too vested in his “friend” to see MM is the problem. I thought it was telling though, Barnhart said in the fall he didnt talk to the transfers (Harper and kGR) so I am curious if nothing is wrong in his mind and he has no concerns why he is now talking doing exit interviews with players that are leaving. And let’s face it no one wants to be labeled (coach or player) in their next post as a tattletale … Maybe an ex-player further removed from basketball can give some insight. Mathis was a psychology major and I remember print articles where she pretty much said he was a head case. Everyone deals with adversity differently some just leave, some take it and some hold up in Rick Pitino’s old house with their new baby (which they had in October. 2013 btw) getting paid a cool mill a year. I still can’t believe he used his wife having a baby as the reasons he didn’t communicate better (oh wait Barnhart said he was a great communicator):/



  5. StuckinLville
    3:16 am April 29, 2016 Permalink

    You cant compare Mitchell and Joker. Joker took a program on the rise and flattened it. Mitchell took a program on the rise and only elevated it. I dont know what’s going on, but he sure did not explain at all why a bunch of players left back in the fall. He explained his staff issues, but not his player issues.