Just weeks ahead of the expected start of the 2020 women's basketball season, Kentucky has suffered a major blow to its meteoric expectations.
Matthew Mitchell, the winningest coach in UK women's basketball history, has retired from coaching and resigned from his head coach position, according to a UK press release late Thursday evening. The move comes after an offseason brain surgery for Kentucky's charismatic leader.
"“After much conversation with my family and Mr. Barnhart, I have decided to retire from coaching and effectively have resigned as head coach at Kentucky," Mitchell said in the release. "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."
"As has been much publicized, I have had an eventful offseason with my injury and subsequent surgery. I have been open about the fact that the surgery and recovery process has been life-altering for me and my family. Through that, my priorities towards my family and my faith has grown even larger than before and that has led me to make this decision... I am resolute in my decision and comfortable with beginning the next chapter of my life."
Mitchell compiled a 303-133 mark over his thirteen-year tenure in Lexington, participating in the NCAA Tournament nine times. He made three Elite Eight appearances over that stretch.
“As our all-time winningest coach, Matthew Mitchell led us through so many of the great moments in the history of Kentucky basketball," Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in the press release. "He has been a great ambassador for the University of Kentucky, on and off the court, bringing an energy and style of play that made it fun for players and fans alike... 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.”
Barnhart has named associate head coach Kyra Elzy interim head coach in Mitchell's stead, effective immediately. Elzy has been on staff at the NCAA level since 2002, and has served in the Kentucky associate head coach role since 2016. She was also the UK associate head coach during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.
This is Elzy's first head coaching gig. She is entering her 19th year of coaching.
"Kyra has done an amazing job leading the program these past few months," Mitchell said in the release. "She is one of the best coaches in college basketball and has displayed that throughout her career as a top-notch tactician and elite recruiter. Most of all, she is of the highest character. I have the utmost confidence in her to lead Kentucky women’s basketball into future success.”
"Coach Mitchell means so much to me, and I owe him an enormous amount of gratitude for his guidance throughout my coaching career," Elzy said in the press release. "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," she continued. "As interim head coach, I promise that our staff will work tirelessly to make sure the program continues to build upon the success that Coach Mitchell has had at Kentucky.”
Elzy and Mitch Barnhart are holding an introductory press conference on Friday morning. It is currently set for 9:30 a.m. ET.