Florida interim women’s basketball coach Kelly Rae Finley said Thursday that she does not think she let her players down through her actions or inactions while now-former coach Cameron Newbauer is alleged by former players to have mistreated them.
Finley, who spent the past four seasons as an assistant on Newbauer’s staff, also said she did not enable Newbauer, who has been accused of throwing balls at players and making discriminatory remarks.
“I don’t believe I would be here if that were the case,” Finley said during her first public remarks since the scandal broke last month.
At least one former player, Cydnee Kinslow, has said Finley was complicit in Newbauer’s alleged actions. Kinslow told The Independent Florida Alligator, a student-run paper that’s not affiliated with the university, that Finley “did everything she could to sweep it under the rug” as an assistant.
The Alligator spoke to several former players and some of their parents before detailing alleged abuse by Newbauer in a story.
During a preseason news conference over Zoom, players Kiara Smith and Lavender Briggs defended Finley.
“I don’t think if she let any of us down we would be here,” said Briggs, last year’s leading scorer with an average 19.5 points. “I had the opportunity to leave, and I chose to stay because we see something in Kelly that is beautiful, and she’s strong and hardworking, and we love her as a coach and even more as a person. And she didn’t let anybody down, and she’s here to help us become the best we can be as a team and off the court as well.”
Finley repeatedly declined to get into the accusations against Newbauer and whether she had knowledge of them. She said at least three times that UF’s administration “has addressed the previous allegations” and tried to deflect the focus to her team and today’s exhibition against Flagler College.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin spoke to the Tampa Bay Times and three other news outlets last month about the scandal, though some questions remain unanswered publicly. Stricklin said he became aware of issues during Newbauer’s first season, 2017-18, and addressed them by having a senior administrator supervise the program. Reports of misconduct subsided until Stricklin learned of an unspecified issue in spring of this year that led to Newbauer’s resignation in July.
Briggs said that Kinslow didn’t speak for her or the rest of the Gators and that some of the allegations Kinslow made were not based on her experiences.
“There’s a bunch of false allegations and narratives going around,” Briggs said. “We’re not really focused on anything but the people that are fighting for each other. We have each other’s back, and that’s all that matters.”
Briggs did not elaborate on what she believes has been inaccurately reported.
Finley did discuss some of the changes she has tried to make since she took over in July. An environment described as “toxic” under the previous regime now tries to have more fun.
“It’s important that we be who we are, both individually and collectively as a team,” Finley said. “I think we have to celebrate that and stand by that.”
Smith, a sixth-year guard, said the situation has made the team stronger: “As a team we were already close, but this situation made us closer because we understand we’ve got each other, we’ve got the people that support. At the end of the day, that’s all we need.”
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.
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