Christian Stefanopoulos has stepped down from her position as assistant coach at Kentucky while battling an undisclosed illness, head coach Matthew Mitchell told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday morning.
“We are behind Christian all the way and we are supporting her through her journey back to good health,” he said.
That leaves No. 8 Kentucky short an assistant coach and a recruiting coordinator for the rest of the season, but Mitchell said the staff has functioned well in her absence and will continue to do so.
“I’m so grateful,” he said. “Everybody’s just really picked it up. … I couldn’t ask for much more. This is not what you plan. It’s been very tough on me because I was so worried about Christian and then you have the job going on and the gap to fill, so it’s been hard.”
Crystal Riley, a former point guard at Kentucky who has been on the support staff since graduation, has been activated to an on-the-court coach position.
The Memphis native will be able to join new assistant coaches Tamika Williams and Adeniyi Amadou on the road recruiting as soon as she takes her recruiting test, Mitchell said.
“She’ll be a full-time coach for the remainder of the season, then we’ll figure out what we’re going to do,” he said.
There will not be an official recruiting coordinator; the position is being filled by committee for now.
Amy Tilley, assistant athletics director for women’s basketball, is playing a large part in that. In her previous position in women’s basketball, she was largely responsible for many of the duties.
“She’s really organizing everything,” Mitchell explained. “We’re still running the same system, just Amy’s overseeing that.”
Mitchell has been working with the guards during Stefanopoulos’ absence and he will continue to do that until her replacement is hired after the season ends.
The head coach said Kentucky’s players have been great during a trying time.
“The kids were concerned about her, but they’ve handled it well,” he said. “They understand it’s a difficult situation.”
Stefanopoulos, who previously was a video coordinator at Kentucky and as assistant coach under Mitchell at Morehead State, rejoined the UK staff in April. The 31-year-old Florence native’s two-year deal was worth $170,000 a year with additional incentive clauses.