LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Not even 24 hours after the shocking news that Kentucky women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell decided to step down from the program, interim head coach Kyra Elzy met with the media virtually Friday morning.
"November 12, it will be one of those days that I will never forget," said Elzy. "It was bittersweet in so many ways. I always dreamed of taking over for Coach Mitchell as he rode off into the sunset. I never quite imagined it like this. That’s the funny thing about life, it never quite goes like planned. To Coach Mitchell, my mentor, my friend, my brother, thank you. You gave 25 years of your life to the game of basketball. I have watched you literally pour yourself into Kentucky women’s basketball. You have empowered so many women to greatness. This season is for you, coach."
Mitchell received brain surgery this off-season after he fell and hit his head during a family vacation, where blood was getting into his brain. He has recovered, but decided to make the decision that was best for the program and his family.
"I know this was an extremely difficult decision for Matthew and Jenna, and we obviously want them to be a part of our program, and they have ensured us that they are going to stay in Lexington and be around our program, and we’re thankful for that," said Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhardt. "We want them to be a part of our family forever, so we’re looking forward to spending time with them as we go."
Elzy takes over arguably one of the better team's in Kentucky women's basketball history.
With National Player of the Year hopeful Rhyne Howard returning for her junior season, a plethora of incoming freshmen and transfer's that will help in the post, Elzy couldn't have been put in a better situation.
“It has not totally hit me yet, but I do realize that I am taking over a top team in the country, and I am just going to use it as positivity," said Elzy.
"Not every head coach gets to walk in to a team that has been successful, and I have been receiving a lot of text messages and phone calls to mentors, friends and colleagues that are given me advice, and the best advice that I have received thus far – If all else fails, put the ball in Rhyne Howard’s hands, and let her do what she does best. So, to be able to coach a player like Rhyne, and the talent that we have on this team, you know, I do understand a lot is at stake, and I am ready for this moment. I’ve been there as a player, now as a coach, and now we’re about to put it in action.”
"She has been alongside Matthew this entire time, or for a good chunk of the time, and has been a part of that success that we’ve had at the University of Kentucky," said Barnhardt.
She has been a proven teacher, she’s been a leader, she’s been a great recruiter for our program, she was an incredible player in her days, and so she has the resume that allows us to have confidence in knowing that she can begin this process and get to know our program a little more at a different spot, and we get to know her in a different spot, and so, we are looking forward to that."
Kentucky will open its season at home on November 25 against Murray State.