Kentucky Women’s Basketball‘s winningest coach in program history announced his retirement Thursday as Matthew Mitchell decided to resign as head coach of the Cats.
In June, Mitchell underwent brain surgery after there was a build-up of blood in his brain caused by a fall while hiking with his family in Mexico.
In a statement, Mitchell cited his health as the reason for his sudden retirement.
“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. “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.”
“As our all-time winningest coach, 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,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “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.”
Mitchell, 49, spent 13 seasons as Wildcats head coaching posting a 303-133 record.
With Mitchell retiring, associate head coach Kyra Elzy will take over as interim head coach of the Wildcats.
“Kyra has been alongside Matthew for much of the success we’ve had and she is a proven teacher, leader and recruiter,” Barnhart 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 is a native of LaGrange, Kentucky, who has been in various coaching positions since 2002. She spent time at Western Kentucky and Kansas before joining Mitchell’s staff from 2009-12. After four seasons at Tennessee as an assistant, she came back to Lexington, where she’s served as associate head coach since the 2016-17 season.
“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. “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.”
Elzy and Barnhart will meet with the media via Zoom Friday to discuss the future of the program.