The University of Florida released news Friday that Gators’ women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer stepped down due to personal reasons, and Kelly Rae Finley would assume the role of interim head coach for the 2021-2022 season.
The news comes two days after star guard Lavender Briggs entered the transfer portal.
Newbauer went 46-71 overall and 15-47 in the SEC over his time at UF. The Gators made the WNIT for the first time in 2021 and defeated Charlotte for their first postseason victory since 2014.
“Being the head coach of the University of Florida women's basketball team has been the honor of a lifetime," Newbauer said in a released statement. "After much reflection, my family and I have come to the difficult decision to step away.”
Newbauer also thanked all the players he coached and said he has no doubt the program is poised for success.
Athletic Director Scott Stricklin sent his well-wishes to Newbauer and his family. He praised Newbuaer’s hard work and high energy he brought to the head coaching position.
Scott Stricklin decided to promote Finley, who has coached for Florida since 2017. UF plans to determine a permanent head coach at the end of the upcoming season.
Finley joined Newbauer’s new staff as an assistant coach then advanced to Associate Head Coach in May 2019.
"During Kelly's four years here at Florida, she has been well-respected within the women's basketball program and throughout the UAA, and we're fortunate to have her step in and lead our young women,” Stricklin said.
According to her UF biography, she specializes in the development of guards and recruiting.
"I am committed to our student-athletes and will continue to do all I can to help them become the best they can be on and off the court," Finley said. "I'm grateful to be entrusted with this role and will bring my best every day to help us be successful together as a team."
Finley served as head coach for three games during the 2020-21 season when Newbauer was out due to COVID-19 protocols. She picked up her first head coaching win Jan. 24 against Ole Miss. The Gators lost to No. 20 Tennessee and dropped a 61-58 battle with Missouri in the other two games.
Finley played basketball at Colorado State University. After her playing days, she worked as both assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Harvard, Colorado and Arizona before joining the UF staff.
Florida returns the majority of its roster for Finley but stands to lose its leading scorer in Briggs.
The Second-Team All-SEC Briggs averaged 19.4 points a game last season before a foot injury near the end of the season, the fourth-highest average in program history. She had the second-highest scoring average in the SEC last season but announced she is entering the transfer portal on July 14. Her transfer destination is unknown.
Fellow guard Kiara Smith came in close behind with 18.8 points a game last year and will play her redshirt senior year at UF.
New freshmen arrived on campus in four-star recruits Jeriah Warren and Tatyana Wyche, in addition to three-star twin Taliyah Wyche. Alberte Rimdal from Denmark joins Florida as the No. 10 ranked player in the WorldWideHoops Class of 2021 Rankings.
The Gators will tip off their season at the Preseason WNIT Classic against Towson on Nov. 12.