Camryn Whitaker, the head women’s basketball coach at Northern Kentucky University and a former assistant coach for the Dayton Flyers, has been accused of emotional and verbal abuse by former players at Northern Kentucky.
Taryn Taugher, who appeared in 23 games last season as a senior at NKU, published an article March 25 detailing her problems with Whitaker.
“Every student-athlete has been yelled at,” Taugher wrote. “That is not the issue here. The issue is that this coach is making it personal by bullying and emotionally abusing some of her players behind closed doors. This does not apply to all of the players on the team. She certainly has her favorites, but a few of the others seem to be “chosen” to be her emotional “punching bags” each year, and I have been one of them from the first day Camryn Whitaker stepped onto the court for our first practice in June 2016.”
Other players have backed up Taugher’s accusations, while a group of eight current Northern Kentucky players have thrown their support behind Whitaker.
In response to the accusations against Whitaker, Northern Kentucky announced it will conduct an “independent, external review and assessment” of the women’s basketball program.
Whitaker coached at Dayton for three seasons from 2012-15 under Jim Jabir and was a part of the coaching staff that led the Flyers to the Elite Eight in 2015. She took an assistant coaching job at Kentucky in the 2015-16 season and then was hired at NKU in 2016.
Former Dayton guard Christy Macioce defended Whitaker on Twitter on March 26. She wrote she played for Whitaker for two seasons and had numerous one-on-one meetings and workouts with Whitaker.
“Never in my two years did I feel she personally attacked me or my teammates,” Macioce wrote. “She held us accountable and offered nothing but constructive criticism, which made us successful. Whit went above and beyond her coaching role and cared about each of us as individuals. She constantly asked (and still does today) about my family and school and was willing to do anything possible to help me succeed in basketball and even more importantly life after basketball. She’s one of the most caring people I’ve ever been around and best coaches I have had the opportunity to learn from. I hope people know there are two sides to every story and this article shows only one.”
Macioce expanded on her Twitter post in a phone interview with the Dayton Daily News on Thursday. She said she was disappointed to read Taugher’s article, and “it just felt like part of our family was being attacked.”
Macioce sent a text message to Whitaker last week.
“I kind of told her how I felt about her,” Macioce said. “I wanted to offer some sort of bright light to her. I know a few girls have reached out to her to say, ‘We love you. We’re here for you.’”
JaVonna Layfield, who was a freshman during Whitaker’s final season at Dayton and was recruited by her starting at the age of 14 when Whitaker was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, also reached out to Whitaker to show support.
Layfield said she was upset when she read the article by Taugher.
“When I saw it, immediately it was like, ‘Nah,’” Layfield said. “Nothing said to me, ‘Yeah, she did that. She definitely did that.’ No. I was like, ‘This is sickening. This is a bunch of BS.’ I couldn’t read the rest of it. I was mad.”
For Layfield, the picture painted of Whitaker by Taugher and others did not go with what she remembered of the coach.
“This is the same coach who picked me up at 3 in the morning my freshman year because I was having a panic attack,” Layfield said, “and I slept on her couch.”
Two other former Flyers, Andrea Hoover and Jenna Burdette, who were teammates for one season in 2014-15, which was Whitaker’s last season at Dayton, have kept in contact with Whitaker in recent years, even attending games at NKU, and also have reached out to support her since news of the allegations first broke in March.
Hoover, whose last three seasons coincided with Whitaker’s three seasons looks at Whitaker as a mentor and a friend. She was angered reading the article Taugher, who painted a picture of a coach who was the opposite of the coach Hoover remembers.
“We always joke that if we had a bad half or bad game, she was always the first one in the locker room clapping her hands,” Hoover said, “saying, ‘It’s OK, guys. We’ve got this.' She was the positive one out of all the coaches. We could always depend on her to make light of the situation we were in or spin it in a positive way. That was the kind of coach I saw her as. When I was reading this stuff, this is not the person I know.”
Whitaker recruited Burdette, so though she played only one season with her, their relationship started during her junior year in high school.
“She was the reason I went to Dayton,” Burdette said. “I tell everyone that. She was my point guard coach my freshman year. I was with her all the time. We had workouts before practice, after practice, almost every day. She held everyone accountable. She would tell me when I did things wrong but also praise me when I did things correct. I had dinner with her and her sister’s family last month before all this came out. She only coached me for a year, and to this day, I feel I’m a part of her family and can call her whenever I want.”
Eight current NKU players also backed Whitaker in a letter published on the same website where Taugher listed her allegations.
“Our experience on the Northern Kentucky University women’s basketball team has been positive from day one to now, despite the demands and struggles,” they wrote. “NKU has been where we have formed our closest friendships and created our best memories. It’s also provided us a high quality education that will lay the foundation for our future careers, while shaping us into strong, independent, young women.”
Meanwhile, another former NKU player, Shar’Rae Davis, spoke out about Whitaker in a Facebook video and detailed her own claims of abuse.
“Everything Taryn wrote about, which a lot of people have read, is true,” Davis said.
Hayley Combs, an Alter grad who played at NKU, also wrote about Whitaker on Twitter.
“She’s the reason I quit basketball after loving and playing for 12 years with two back-to-back state titles,” she wrote. “She deserves to reap the consequences for her actions.”
The University of Dayton released a statement about the Whitaker situation on Thursday.
“It would not be appropriate for me to comment on another institution’s basketball program or coach,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said, “but I will offer that the culture of our women’s basketball program has long met, and continues to meet, our expectations for the total student-athlete experience.”
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