Matthew Mitchell came on KSR this morning to address the turmoil surrounding the UK Hoops program and, well, it was awkward. First of all, kudos to Mitchell for agreeing to come on; however, after twenty minutes, I’m not sure we learned anything. Mitchell danced around the issues and didn’t give any clear answers to what was admittedly a very tough line of questioning. Here’s a brief recap of his appearance, along with the full clip of the interview.
Matt started by asking the obvious: after six players, two future players, and three coaches distanced themselves from the program, what the heck is going on?
“I think you have an opportunity to grow through times like this,” Mitchell said. “It definitely was a tumultuous end to what was a really enjoyable season for me on the court. The kids really played hard, showed up every day with great attitudes and worked hard on the court. We got some great results, made us very proud. I think if you put it in the context of it all happening right now, it’s really not accurate that it’s happening right now.”
Mitchell admitted that maybe the program grew too quickly after its initial success during his tenure and that that the coaching turnover in 2014 may explain some of the issues since.
“I think all of these events are really a culmination of us trying to improve the program to get better,” Mitchell said. “As Kyra [Elzy] left for Tennessee and Matt [Insell] left for Ole Miss, we’ve been trying to recreate that and it’s been hard for me and I think that’s what my responsibility is. I’ve got to do a good job of making sure we have some stability on the staff. That’s 100% on me.”
So…what are we supposed to make of the three assistants that just left?
“Well, one situation is I didn’t renew a contract and that is me deciding that the coach [Amadou] and I are not going to go forward and renew the contract, and that’s between that coach and me,” Mitchell said. “The other two coaches [Tamika Williams-Jeter and Camryn Whitaker] decided they didn’t want to be here. I explained their value and what they could do at Kentucky and they decided that wanted to be elsewhere.”
There have been rumblings on social media from former players that Mitchell is too hard on his players, which Mitchell denied has any impact on the departures.
“I do not. I have been a demanding coach, but as I said, we — every practice has been open. I have certainly grown as a coach and in my younger days — have I learned how to be a better coach? There’s no question about it. The intensity that you have as a young coach, do you learn how to be more effective with that? You do. I make no bones about being a tough coach and a coach that is intense, but I love our players. We’ve had great success here.”
When pressed, Mitchell refused to pin this on one situation or incident, instead preaching the need for stability.
“I understand that it doesn’t look good and I understand that there are things on social media that you want this all buttoned up and I understand that our entire staff left, but I can’t really deal – those are people’s lives they want to live and what I need to do now as we turn the page here and move forward is make certain we are getting closer to people who want to be in the building.”
“Ultimately, it’s all on me because I’m making the decisions to bring people here,” Mitchell said. “We need to get it better and we need to get it more right than we’ve gotten it. We have to. That’s 100% on me. I have to build a staff where we can have a level of stability going from year to year.”
“The seven players that are in that locker room right now that are on campus are absolutely the kind of people we want in that program and I’ve got to make sure I’m there for them.”