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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Briggs, teammates defend Kelly Rae Finley in first team media since Newbauer scandal

Associate head coach Kelly Rae Finley was appointed interim head coach after former coach Cam Newbauer’s resignation

<p>Kiki Smith (left) and Lavender Briggs (right), pictured during a game against Mizzou game Jan. 28. Smith scored a game-high 28 points for the Gators Sunday.</p>

Kiki Smith (left) and Lavender Briggs (right), pictured during a game against Mizzou game Jan. 28. Smith scored a game-high 28 points for the Gators Sunday.

The Florida Gators women’s basketball team held its first media availability since abuse allegations were levied against former head coach Cam Newbauer. Interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley and several players took turns addressing the program at the podium. 

The Alligator published a story on Sept. 27 featuring multiple former Florida players under Newbauer who came forward and alleged that he made racist remarks, threw basketballs at players during practices and verbally abused the players, assistant coaches and trainers. 

One of the first questions Finley received was about what she knew about Newbauer’s behavior and the role she played in it. She deflected it, attempting to shift focus toward the Gators first game against Flagler College on Nov. 5. 

“Our administration has addressed the previous allegations, and our focus is on the upcoming season,” Finley said. 

Cydnee Kinslow, a former player on last season’s team, accused Finley of doing damage control for Newbauer, who coached at Florida from 2017-2021. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin and the athletic department haven’t addressed the allegations from former players that Finley swept Newbauer’s behavior under the rug. They’ve only commented on Newbauer’s behavior.

The reporter followed up and asked if Finley felt like she felt these women down. 

“No,” guard Kiki Smith interjected on her coach’s behalf.

Finley continued and added she wouldn’t be here if that were the case. 

It wasn’t the last time the question was brought up. Later in the press conference, guard Lavender Briggs jumped in to defend Finley. She accused Kinslow of placing false allegations against her current head coach. 

“As far as Cydnee goes, she doesn’t speak for me,” Briggs said. “She doesn’t speak for the team. So, I mean, what she said doesn’t really matter. 

“She’s speaking on things that aren’t even her experience and if those players wanted to speak on those experiences, they would have, they still will, but I’m pretty sure they don’t, which is why they haven’t been spoken about. So 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 those aren’t even her experiences.”

In The Alligator’s story, Kinslow said a teammate of hers attempted suicide. This week, Zach Goodall of SI’s AllGators published a more detailed story about Kinslow’s experiences where she added she tried to end her own life and provided more details on her teammate’s attempt. 

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She said she broke down a bathroom door and pulled her out of the shower to prevent the effort. 

“We as a university and myself take mental health very seriously,” Finley said about her former players’ suicide attempts. “I think that as a country, it’s something that we need to be invested in.”

Briggs said she already noticed a different environment during practices under Finley. 

“There’s a lot more energy, there’s a lot more smiles, and there’s a lot more people happy to actually be playing with each other and to be stepping on the court playing under the coaches we’re playing under,” she said. 

The Gators take the court for the first time under Finley on Nov. 5, when they take on Flagler College in an exhibition game in the O’Connell Center at 6 p.m. 

UPDATE - Kinslow told The Alligator she wishes nothing but the best for her former teammates and Briggs. However, she reiterated she only spoke about her experiences at Florida. 

“What I went through was 100% what I went through,” she said in response to Briggs. “I wouldn’t put that on anyone else, and I would never wish that upon anybody.”

Kinslow said she was disappointed Briggs dismissed her experience by virtue of not having a similar one. 

“That’s very much so a classic, ‘Oh, it didn’t happen to me, so it didn’t happen to anybody else,’” she added.

Contact Zachary Huber at Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber. 

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