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Florida moving on from ex-coach amid ‘false narratives’

Syndication: Knoxville

Florida women’s basketball coach Cam Newbauer during the game at Tennessee on Thursday, January 31, 2019. Kns Ladyflorida 0201

Saul Young/News Sentinel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida guard Lavender Briggs said there are “a bunch of false allegations and narratives going around” regarding what happened during former women’s basketball coach Cam Newbauer’s tumultuous tenure.

Briggs, who averaged a team-high 19.5 points last season, said Thursday that former teammate Cydnee Kinslow “doesn’t speak for me; she doesn’t speak for the team.”

Kinslow was one of several Florida players who detailed Newbauer’s abuse, which allegedly included verbal and physical harassment against players, assistants and staff members.

“What she says doesn’t really matter,” Briggs said during Florida’s first media availability since Newbauer was forced to resign in mid-July. “She’s speaking off things that aren’t even her experiences. If those players wanted to speak on those experiences, then they would have or they still will.

“I’m pretty sure they don’t, which is why they haven’t been spoken about. If she wants to speak on experiences that aren’t her own, then she can. But she can’t paint a narrative that’s not even true because those aren’t even her words or aren’t even her experiences.”

The Gators offered little reaction to Newbauer’s departure and even fewer details about what happened during his time in Gainesville. They insisted they were ready to move on with each other and interim coach Kelly Rae Finley.

Finley, who spent the last four seasons as an assistant on Newbauer’s staff, said she is working to change the program’s culture.

“I think we do a lot of celebrating,” Finley said. “It’s important that we celebrate each other, that we empower each other, that we have the utmost confidence in ourselves individually as women and that we always seek to connect the dots and how that can help us grow in life.”

Kinslow said Finley repeatedly made excuses for Newbauer and was thus complicit in Newbauer’s wrongdoing because she didn’t do enough to prevent them from recurring. Briggs and guard Kiara Smith disagreed.

“I don’t think if she let any of us down we would be here,” said Briggs, who entered the NCAA transfer portal before eventually returning to Florida. “I had the opportunity to leave and I chose to stay because we see something in Kelly that is beautiful. 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.

“She’s here to help us become the best we can be as a team and off the court as well.”

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin last month accepted responsibility for Newbauer’s toxic environment, saying “we failed in this situation.”

The Independent Florida Alligator, a student-run paper that’s not affiliated with the university, spoke to several former players and some of their parents before detailing the alleged abuse by Newbauer. Those players said Newbauer made racist remarks, threw basketballs at them and belittled everyone around him.

Stricklin acknowledged getting reports about “some behavior that was a little concerning from a cultural standpoint” during Newbauer’s first season in 2017. Instead of asking the university to investigate, Stricklin appointed a senior staff member - associate AD Jay Jacobs - to monitor the program.

Stricklin said the complaints slowed and eventually stopped, and he gave Newbauer one final chance to show on-the-court improvement after going 46-71 in four seasons. Newbauer signed a three-year contract extension in March.

But four months later, Newbauer was involved in another situation that made it clear he was “still having an issue on the treatment part of people. And so we sat down, told him what his options were, and he chose to resign,” Stricklin said.

Newbauer received a $283,250 buyout that will be split into installments.

Finley and everyone else left behind are working to pick up the pieces.

“It made us closer in so many ways on and off the court,” Smith said. “As a team, we were already close. But this situation made us closer because we understand we got each other, we got the people that support. At the end of the day, that’s all we need.”