Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell directs players in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina during the Southeastern Conference tournament on Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
LEXINGTON, Ky, (KT) — Matthew Mitchell has stepped down as women’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.
After consulting with his family and Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart on Thursday, Mitchell opted to step down. Assistant coach Kyra Elzy has been named interim coach.
“This was a difficult decision and I know the timing is not ideal, but I do not feel I can give the job what it requires at this time,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, the winningest women’s basketball coach in school history, retires with a record of 333-162, including an impressive 303-133 mark as coach of the Wildcats. Mitchell suffered a fall last summer, which later resulted in surgery for a brain bleed. He said the surgery and recovery process turned out to be “life-altering for me and my family.”
“Through that, my priorities towards my family and my faith have grown even larger than before and that has led me to make this decision,” he said. “Although so much about today is sad because I will greatly miss the relationships and people that have constantly lifted up my family and me the last 13 years, I am resolute in my decision and comfortable with beginning the next chapter of my life.”
Barnhart said Mitchell will be missed.
“Matthew Mitchell led us through so many of the great moments in the history of Kentucky basketball, with more than 300 wins, an SEC championship and numerous NCAA Tournament appearances,” he said. “He has been a great ambassador for the University of Kentucky, on and off the court, bringing energy and style of play that made it fun for players and fans alike.
“In addition, Matthew and Jenna have woven themselves into the fabric of the community with tremendous generosity of time, treasure and spirit. Matthew, Jenna and their children always will be part of the Wildcat family and we wish them the very best as they enter the next stage of their lives.”
Mitchell is confident Elzy, who has been leading the team for the past “few months,” will continue to move the program forward.
“She is one of the best coaches in college basketball and has displayed that throughout her career as a top-notch tactician, elite recruiter, and most of all, she is of the highest character,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence in her to lead Kentucky women’s basketball into future success.”
“Kyra has been alongside Matthew for much of the success we’ve had and she is a proven teacher, leader, and recruiter,” he said. “We look forward to spending more time with her as she further develops her style and philosophy while leading us into the next chapter of Kentucky basketball.”
Elzy praised Mitchell for his leadership and guidance and added her immediate concern is for the players.
“This is not an easy day for any of us as we come to grips with his decision to retire. My immediate focus is on our players and making sure that they are dealing with this change that has happened so abruptly.
“As you can understand, this has been difficult for them to process. We met with the players and their families this evening and ensured them that this program will stand on the same principles moving forward.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @keithtaylor21.