Mitchell owns up to instability in wake of mass exodus


Head coach Matthew Mitchell of the Kentucky Wildcats gives a thumbs up to fans after the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Sweet 16 game against the Washington Huskies at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Friday, March 25, 2016. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff.

Anthony Crawford

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Following a massive upheaval in the program, the smoke has cleared around UK women’s basketball, and what is left is a team and staff built on instability.

Head coach Matthew Mitchell quickly took full responsibility for the situation, but the solution will most likely require more than just the head coach owning up for allowing the program to become stagnant.

“You think something is rolling along well, and you think it’s just going to keep rolling along,” Mitchell said. “Well that’s the mistake that you make. From that I’m trying to learn.”

The mass exodus concluded this week and leaves the team with only seven players on scholarship and only one assistant under Mitchell in the return of former assistant Kyra Elzy.

The departures from the team started before the buzzer sounded in Memorial Coliseum with transfer Chrishae Rowe being dismissed from the team and the surprise transfer of Linnae Harper in October. The transfer of freshman Morgan Rich would follow in early November to make it three departures before the season started.

While the exits of Rowe and Rich could easily be overlooked, reasonable questions started to surround the program with the news of Harper leaving. The junior guard was thought to be a major part of the team and was supposed to help Mitchell by providing leadership to a younger team.

Once the season tipped off, more adversity struck whenjunior Kyvin Goodin-Rogers announced her transfer from UK. That left UK with nine scholarship players and only eight who could actually play as sophomore Makenzie Cann was forced to sit out due to transfer rules.

Now Mitchell finds himself in an even worse situation as seven more departures from the program have hit this offseason, including three members of his coaching staff and a top 50 recruit for next season. Freshman Batouly Camara announced her plans to transfer from the program Monday to leave UK with only eight people on the roster and only one incoming freshman.

Mitchell took full blame for the instability that has led to these departures and he has UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart holding him accountable and also all seven players currently left on the roster.

“I am so appreciative to Mitch Barnhart, who has just been so helpful in his feedback from this,” Mitchell said. “He has been so candid to me about, ‘you need to do a better job in getting people in a stable situation and we cannot have this type of situation happening again.’”

While bringing on Elzy helps, UK faces an uphill battle heading into the offseason. Mitchell says for UK to get back to what he wants, which is a program that builds success through the personal successes of its players, a renewed focus in recruiting and in the current players will be necessary.

“What we are looking for at Kentucky is the ultimate success that this is a place where a young woman can come and develop as a total person,” Mitchell said. “She can develop personally, she can develop academically, athletically. So that’s the goal and when we do that we believe we are going to go to Final Fours and win championships.”

Obviously, this is not where Barnhart, Mitchell or even the fans want the program to be, but Mitchell confronting the issue head-on is a positive sign. Through self-evaluation and the support of players and parents he is confident that the women’s program can reach the light at the end of the tunnel.